What to Do When You Hit a Bodybuilding Workout Plateau

man having trouble with his excercise, sitting on the floor of his bedroom and covering his face with both of his hands

Anyone who’s serious about working out will have heard about the dreaded workout plateau (the bodybuilding equivalent of a writer’s block). It’s the moment your efforts don’t seem to pay off anymore, and the change you’re training for – albeit muscle growth, strength increase, fat burn, weight loss – simply isn’t changing anymore.

You’ve reached the status quo. No matter how much effort you put in, no matter how many reps you pump out. What do you have to show for it? Zero, zilch, nada! It grinds your gears and, quite frankly, you’re wondering why the hell you’re putting in all this effort if you won’t see any results.

intense workout

We get you bro! Here at team CrazyBulk, I think every single one of us has hit the workout plateau at some point in our routines. We were eating a healthy diet (optimized for our specific workout regimes), we made sure we got enough rest, we exercised the right way. Basically, we did everything right.

But the pounds didn’t come off anymore, the muscles didn’t grow anymore, and the one rep max lift didn’t increase anymore. We knew it: crap, we hit workout plateau. Now hitting that plateau sucks, trust me I know, but you CAN overcome it. Curious how to get out of a plateau? Just keep scrolling down to find out…

What is a workout plateau?

Possible reasons for workout plateau

Ways to overcome exercise plateau

What is a workout plateau?

First, let’s get our facts straight. What is an exercise plateau exactly? Basically, it’s the moment things just don’t grow, increase, or improve anymore.

definition exercise plateau

It’s the moment when your efforts don’t have an effect anymore, and your workouts seem futile. In geology and geography, the word “plateau” means a high, flat terrain raised above the rest of the area around it, and if you think about it, it actually symbolizes the workout plateau really well!

Before you hit the gym you’re at the bottom. Then, as you start working out, you start gaining: you’re climbing up the mountain. With every workout you see your muscles grow, your fat melts away like cheese on a burger, and every Monday you wack another weight on the iron. Then out of nowhere, you stop improving, and all of a sudden you are stuck on a flat plain with no top to climb in sight.

Welcome on top of the plateau.

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Possible reasons for workout plateau

It’s awful when you hit a plateau, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the journey. If you do it right you can beat that fitness plateau, but you need to make an effort and create a serious plateau-busting workout.

But, before thinking about solutions, you have to think about why plateau is happening in the first place. Here are some of the possible reasons for exercise plateau.

Your diet | Your sleep | Your workout

Your diet

You probably know a thing or two about nutrition and how important it is. You try your best to lay off the carbs (unless you’re bulking of course), eat enough veggies, squeeze some steaks in there, and overall just manage to maintain a healthy diet. Chances are you even combine it with some sort of protein shake to really be in control of your intake!

Unfortunately, it can be tricky to actually stick to it. Let’s be honest, how often do you catch yourself saying “ah, it’s the weekend, one won’t hurt” or “yeah, but we’re celebrating!” And even if you follow your nutritional schedule religiously there’s still a good chance that’s not gonna cut it.

Unless you did your research right, your workout schedule and your diet are probably not optimally synchronized. Are you tracking your calories? Do you know exactly how many calories your body needs?

If you’ve hit a plateau – whether it’s a weight loss plateau or muscle building plateau – it might be due to your diet, and it might be worth turning the calories up or down a bit.

Your sleep

Sleep is of vital importance, and a lack of sleep can be the cause of bodybuilding plateau. Most people will know how important sleep is, but that doesn’t mean they also sleep enough. Think about it, how many hours do you sleep on average? Six hours per night; seven maybe?

Not enough bro. Remember what is recommended: eight hours of sleep per night.

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I know, it’s freaking hard! But if you want to be healthy and get the gains from your workouts, you better be a good boy and go to bed early son. If you’re lacking sleep you don’t give your body the time it needs to recover from your workout. This means your muscles don’t recover enough, plus you won’t have as much energy to hit the gym the next day.

As such, a lack of sleep can impair your exercises and your general muscle growth and weight loss, meaning you’ll stay stuck on the plateau no matter how well you watch your diet and exercise.

Your workout

Eat, sleep, gym, repeat. It’s that simple man. So we discussed the eating and the sleeping, now let’s have a look at your workouts. You might think you’re doing great, but good chance you’re not really…

Too little | The same | Too much

Too little

Now, this probably isn’t true for most of you buff bros, but it’s an important point to mention nonetheless. One of the possible reasons you’re not improving anymore and you hit that plateau is because you’re simply doing too little.

You think you have a nice workout routine: you make it to the gym about three times a week, you mostly stick to a number of set reps during every session, and you always have a sweaty shirt at the end of your workout.

Should be enough to get those muscles growing, right? Unfortunately, a random bit of exercise like that just ain’t gonna cut it, man.

The same

Imagine now you are doing better than the chump above. You’ve set yourself a clear goal and created the perfect workout schedule for yourself. You made sure you knew your weight, height, muscle mass; all your body’s specifications you noted down and with some help of the internet (maybe even a personal trainer) you created a workout schedule tailored to your body and goals.

Great job dude!

Once you started your routine you could almost see the fat turn into muscle instantly. Your body was improving like crazy and after a week or two, your friends and family even started noticing the difference as well. You were on a roll!

But then, the plateau kicked in. No matter how much you stuck to your workout routine the gains just weren’t there anymore and you just stayed… the same.

Reason? You kept your routine the same. The workout schedule you made may have been spot on when you started, but weeks later you are literally a changed man: your body specs have changed, but you forgot to change your routine with it.

Too much

Lastly, you can also do TOO MUCH. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to push yourself, but you have to keep it real and realistic bro. If you’re new to the game and you straight away start pushing a 200lbs barbell, you might seriously hurt yourself and you will be far from improving yourself.

skinny man workout

The key is to not be an arrogant prick, to leave your ego at the doorstep, and to just do a routine that fits your capabilities. If that means starting with a barbell with 5lbs on each side then that’s fine man. Whatever works for you.

Ways to overcome exercise plateau

It can be cold and lonely on top of that plateau, and it can sometimes feel as if you’re left there to rot. Luckily for you, we at CrazyBulk assembled a rescue team to get you the hell outta there!

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We gathered the top things you can do to overcome your workout plateau. Consider these things before hitting the gym and before you know it you got your ass back on the gain train.

Track your exercises | Know your metrics

Celebrate your wins | Accept your losses

Plan your nutrition | Enjoy your rest

Change your workout | Meet your mentor

Track your exercises

Whatever you do, keep track of it. Every exercise, every set, every rep, everything that even remotely looks like a workout or like you might burn a single calorie: track it.

By doing so, you know exactly what you did yesterday, and exactly how you can improve today. This way, you KNOW how to break that plateau!

Know your metrics

A mistake we hear a lot here at team CrazyBulk is that people measure their progress by the weight they’ve lost. They workout, then they step on the scales afterwards.

If the number goes down, they’ve lost weight, so they’re making progress.
If the number stays the same, they didn’t lose weight, so they’re on a weight loss plateau.

FALSE.

First of all, when you make progress you will have less fat to lose. Furthermore, while you have less fat to lose you will be building more muscle. You see how the scale can be deceiving? And that’s not all. Think about extra water weight – being bloated – or when you’re a woman about how menstruation can affect your weight at a certain moment. Bottom line is: there can be multiple reasons why the scale might not change as much as you would expect it to.

Celebrate your wins

Training to reach your best self isn’t all about massive visible gains every day. Often, progress won’t be visible immediately, or progress may be slow with small little wins instead of big gains. Appreciate and celebrate the small wins as well!

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will you be”

Accept your losses

Similarly, you should also accept that there will be bad weeks with only tiny gains; if not flat out losses. Don’t let it kick you down and remember that training your body is a complex progress. You won’t get swole over night bro.

Plan your nutrition

We already discussed the importance of nutrition a bit above. Have you checked your diet once you started noticing the bodybuilding plateau? Have you recently adjusted your diet to match your current body mass; after you lost some weight or gained some muscle?

What was the perfect diet for you two months ago probably isn’t the perfect diet for you anymore. By losing weight you slowed down your metabolism; simply because your body knows there’s less fat to burn. It means you have to adjust your calorie intake to be in line with the current state of your body. This is why the perfect diet always changes as your body changes.

Enjoy your rest

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: make sure you get enough rest. It’s essential for so many things in life, from general energy levels to muscle recovery, so please guys. Sleep.

Change your workout

If you hit the plateau, it might be because you haven’t changed your workout regimen recently. Changing your workout routine is important for two reasons:

  1. As you grow stronger, you need tougher exercises to get results. If you keep on doing the same routine, the gains will slowly decrease until the point of non-existance. Hello, plateau…
  2. If you do the same routine over and over again, your body will get used to it (and basically get bored as f*ck). Constantly adapting your routine forces your body to adapt with it, making sure you keep on gaining and improving.

Meet your mentor

Are you doing everything right? Is your eat-sleep-gym-repeat cycle spot on and fully optimized to perfection, but still stuck on the plateau?

Then maybe it’s time to consider seeing a personal trainer. Getting a professional on your side, coaching you all the way, can provide you with new insights, new techniques, new routines, and – ultimately – new gains.

Conclusion

Many factors can cause an exercise plateau, and being stuck on there can be lonely, disheartening, and downright depressing. But luckily, there is a way to bust the plateau and start peaking again. Follow my tips and before you know it you’ll be working your way up again, gaining by the minute. Good luck bro!

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