Have you ever noticed strength training seems to go really well for awhile and then you hit a wall? This happens to most beginners looking to gain muscle mass quickly.
Quick gains followed by a frustrating plateau are unfortunately normal. After a plateau gains in strength and muscle gains are harder to come by.
This initial “easy” strength gain is due to a phenomenon called neural adaptation. The nerves around the muscles change their behavior as they are stressed. (Source: medicalhealthpages.com)
In the initial phase the nerves fire more frequently causing increased muscle contraction and thus you become stronger. But when the associated muscle fibers around the motor unit reach max contraction capacity you reach a plateau.
Over time, muscle cells respond to continuous resistance training, overcome that plateau and increase in size. Hitting a wall in muscle training can thus be seen as a good thing because once you power through that plateau gains in muscle follow.
Fortunately there are techniques that may help you shorten the plateau periods.
How to Push Through The Plateau
There are ways to reach higher gains in strength. You have heard about having leg days and arm days right? Well changing up your workout can actually propel you to higher gains quicker.
By varying your workouts you can push through the plateaus. The theory behind variation is that you are surprising your muscles. By exposing your muscles to different stressors your muscles respond by increasing in size and strength.
Having a personal trainer or coach can help create a regimen that will work effectively for you.
Here are some ways to keep your muscles on their toes:
1. Change your workout about every four to eight weeks to keep your muscles guessing.
2. Increase the number of repetitions.
3. Increase workout time by 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Increase workout weight by five to 10 percent.
5. Increase workout frequency. Each muscle needs at least 48 hours to recover so keep that in mind when upping frequency.
Change up your days. Splitting body parts over different days of the week can help add variation. Shoulders, triceps and chest can be grouped on one day. Back, abs, and biceps on day two, and legs on day three.
Cross training with other activities such as swimming, biking, running, stair climbing etc.. By switching to different exercises you can focus on multiple muscle groups in a new way. If you can relate workouts to activities of daily living or sporting requirements even better.