Reaching a plateau in your fitness journey is inevitable. At some point, we will all experience a plateau. So, it’s critical to know exactly how to overcome fitness plateaus and continue making progress towards your goals.
What is a Fitness Plateau?
According to Merriam Webster, a plateau is defined as “a level, period, or condition of stability or maximum attainment.” In relation to fitness, a plateau means reaching a point where you are no longer making progress towards your goals. You might be putting in the same amount of effort and work, but you aren’t necessarily seeing the results anymore.
The further you are in your fitness journey, the more likely you are to experience a plateau. This is due to muscular adaptation. As you close in on your fitness goals, the harder it will become to make progress. For example: losing 2% body fat will likely happen quicker for someone who is 200 pounds versus another who is 150 pounds.
How to Overcome Fitness Plateaus
There are specific factors that can contribute to a fitness plateau. Yet, despite the inevitability of fitness plateaus, there are strategic ways to overcome them:
- Caloric Consumption- In effort to lose body weight or body fat, many commit to eating at a severe caloric deficit. While this will help you achieve results in the short-term, it can do extreme damage to your metabolism in the long run. If you are working out consistently, whether strength training or cardiovascular training, it is necessary to fuel your body appropriately. This means consuming enough calories on a daily basis. While it’s true that you need to eat in a caloric deficit to lose body fat, eating too little calories can be catastrophic to your long-term progress. In the case of gaining muscle or strength, you need to be eating in a caloric surplus. I recommend working with a professional, who can help you determine an appropriate caloric intake for your body type and fitness goals.
- Training Schedule– Exercising excessively and/or not allowing time for your muscles to thoroughly recover can quickly contribute to reaching plateaus. Without enough time to recover, your muscles will become burnt out. As a result, you’ll likely experience plateaus in muscle strength, size, endurance, and performance. This is why intentional rest days are so important. I recommend scheduling 2-3 rest days or active rest days per week.
- Training Intensity– Lack of intensity during your workouts will only harm you in the long run. If you are not pushing yourself enough in the gym, a fitness plateau is right around the corner. A concept called “progress overload” is to blame. In progressive overload, increasing tension (or weight) is continuously applied to the muscle overtime, which prevents the occurrence of plateaus. For example: in weight training, progressive overload would look like gradually adding more weight to your workout with each passing week. Without progressive overload, the muscles will adapt and no longer make progress.
- Training Goals- If you’ve addressed the top three factors and are still experiencing plateaus, it might be time to reassess your training goals. This might look like re-establishing new goals or adjusting your current goals. I recommend working with a fitness professional to determine the best way to assess your fitness goals.
Fitness plateaus can be frustrating and defeating. However, there are ways to overcome them! Use these tips to prevent fitness plateaus in the first place and overcome any in the future.