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5 tips for getting out of a workout plateau

So your workouts are feeling good, you’re pushing yourself and you’re going to the gym consistently - well done! Yet you haven’t really seen any strength progress for months.

If this sounds close to home, then you’ve probably hit a plateau. Don’t worry, however frustrating it feels, it happens to many of us and simply means it’s time to switch things up.

Here are 5 easy ways to adjust your workouts so you can continue seeing progress in the gym and building lean muscle 👇🏼

5 tips for getting out of a workout plateau

#1 Switch from full body workouts

Full body workouts are great for engaging every muscle group in your body. However, trying to engage every single muscle group in one 60 minute session means you might only have time for 1-2 exercises per muscle group.

Therefore it can be a lot more efficient to split your workouts into upper- and lower body workouts. This means, instead of only having time for 1-2 exercises per muscle group, you’ll suddenly have time for 5-6. Therefore putting more volume on that muscle group and challenging it enough to grow.

How to do it:

If you’re currently doing 3x full body workouts per week, try changing it to 1x upper body, 1x lower body and 1x full body. You might feel a little sore the first few times, but you’ll start to see far better results.

Another option is to add an extra workout day and alternate between 2x upper body and 2x lower body workouts.

#2 Upgrade your exercises

This seems like an obvious tip, but a lot of us forget to do it. We get too comfortable doing the same workouts for too long without changing the exercises, reps or weights. The exercises that felt very challenging in the beginning, no longer make you break a sweat. It’s these exercises we want to start levelling up.

Upgrading your exercises will help to target your muscles in different and unexpected ways which challenge them to grow back stronger.

How to apply it:

Find the exercises that don’t really challenge you anymore and see how you can make these harder. Examples could be adding weight to your planks and pushups; subbing walking lunges for Bulgarian split squats; or trying barbell deadlifts instead of dumbbell deadlifts.

For some exercises there isn’t necessarily a harder version. For these you should instead focus on simply adding either 1 rep or 1kg every couple weeks.

#3 Apply the rule of 8 reps

In the world of fitness 10 is seen as the magic number of reps to do for all exercises. However, just like you’re aiming to regularly adjust the weight you’re lifting, you should also aim to change the reps. By applying “the rule of 8 reps” you’ll start seeing great progress in your strength without actually having to change up your exercises.

How to apply it:

For the exercises you’re comfortably performing 10-12 reps of, try instead increasing the weight so you can only do 3 sets of 8 reps. Over the next few weeks work your way back up to be able to do 10-12 reps with that same weight. Once you can do this, up the weight again and lower the reps to 8 again. Repeat this cycle again and again. This is what’s called progressive overload.

5 tips for getting out of a workout plateau

#4 Introduce pause reps

A simple way to make a standard exercise more challenging is to introduce pause reps. This simply means pausing mid-rep and holding your stance. Instead of your muscles just being used to going up and down, you’ll instead challenge your core to brace for the pause. It’s incredible for strengthening your core and helping master control of the exercise.

How to apply it:

Pick 1-2 exercises you’re comfortable with. Take a big breath in before the rep and hold the rep for 1-3 seconds before releasing. Great exercises to do this with are squats, deadlifts and shoulder press. Trust me, you’ll feel the burn.

#5 Add a new exercise

While you don’t have to rewrite your entire workout schedule, it can pay off to swap some of your exercises out for an equivalent substitute. Truth is, there are plenty of different exercises that will target that same muscle group.

A new exercise will not only be fun and motivating for you, but also challenge your muscle in different ways so it can grow back stronger.

How to apply it:

For the exercises you’ve grown tired of, try googling for a substitute exercise that trains the same muscle group. This could be swapping squats for leg press machine; deadlifts for hip thruster; or walking lunges for Bulgarian split squats.

Trainn better and avoid plateaus

Being on a fitness journey, it’s inevitable that you’ll hit a plateau at some point. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be a full stop - just a sign that change is due.

The best way to avoid plateaus is to follow a personalised training plan that will help you progress week after week. A personal trainer can help give you that push you need + help update your workouts regularly. A personalised training plan will challenge both you and your muscles in new ways and allow you to feel stronger week after week.

If you're ready to put plateaus in the past, sign up for Online Coaching with me as your personal trainer. Let's do this together!


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Online Personal Trainer Sarah Louise Vegan

Hi, I'm Sarah Louise 👋🏼


I'm a personal trainer & help ordinary people build extraordinary bodies without sacrificing their lifestyle.

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