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How To Break Through the Plateau Effect



If you’ve hit a plateau, you’ll know it. It’s possibly the single most frustrating thing for athletes; being unable to break through your threshold and get to the next level. Fortunately, studies have examined this effect and taken note of the ways we can break through that dreaded plateau.

There is one simple word that describes all you’ll need to know about breaking through that plateau:


All of the many ways you can change up your program will inevitably lead to improved performance. Here is a simple guide of what you can do to say bye to stagnant and boring training.

Change your training cycle

There are several training cycles; if you didn’t know this already, then you are definitely overdue for a change to your training phase. Each cycle, or phase, trains a different physiological response. If you stay on one for too long, without change, the body begins to burn out, and improvements are harder to come by.

These are the major training cycles:

  • Strength/ Force: During this stage, the objective is to increase force. This is a measure of how many pounds of pressure a muscle is able to generate during contraction. There are many ways of measuring this, but a classic method would be to measure the 1 RM for a deadlift, squat, or bench press.
  • Hypertrophy: This cycle only focuses on increasing size. Large muscles are not necessarily strong ones or functional ones, so the training is unique to increasing muscle volume. You can measure hypertrophy by measuring the circumference of the bicep, chest or thigh, before and after the cycle.
  • Power: Another word commonly used to describe power is explosiveness. This is the measure of the force produced over time. In 0.001seconds, how much force can your muscle generate? Explosiveness is best trained with Olympic weightlifting and plyometrics. The simplest way to measure power is by measuring vertical jump.
  • Endurance: This covers both muscular and cardiovascular endurance. This is a measure of how long the muscles can continually contract for, as a measure of intensity over time. Time yourself running or cycling a mile to measure endurance.

Its also important to keep in mind that there is some spill-over from one cycle to the next. For example, the strength phase may also lead to some hypertrophy, and the power phase will probably improve strength along the way. Remember that each cycle should last just 3 to 6 weeks.

Changing the changes!

When you first begin any training cycle, you’ll notice rapid changes immediately. These changes will start to peter out with time, and this is a natural physiological response. To keep things fresh, and to keep improving, you’ll need to keep up with more changes.

Your Training Parameters

Ask yourself how your training compares with the following training parameters. When you wonder how many reps and how heavy you should be lifting, these are the technical factors that make all the difference.

  • Volume: How many repetitions do you perform a single exercise? How many repetitions throughout an entire session, altogether?
  • Frequency: How often are you training each week?
  • Intensity: How close to your max are you training?
  • Density: How much time do you spend working compared to rest?

All of these factors should be adjusted on a weekly basis to ensure the most dynamic programs and the best results. Always record the details of every single training session you do in a training journal to ensure that you can actually track your results and know exactly what to expect of yourself in the coming weeks, months, and years of training.