I'm stuck at a plateau and can't progress

Stuck in a rut, huh? You're not the only one. Many people go through months where it seems that, no matter how hard they work, nothing happens. Although this problem feels like the absolute worst thing in the world, keep that chin up. We know how to help you get through those plateaus and on to bigger and better things!

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I'm stuck at a plateau and can't progress

Stuck in a rut, huh? You're not the only one. Many people go through months where it seems that, no matter how hard they work, nothing happens. Although this problem feels like the absolute worst thing in the world, keep that chin up. We know how to help you get through those plateaus and on to bigger and better things!

Here are five easy steps you can take to bust through stagnation:

  • Have an honest conversation with yourself
  • Dissect your nutrition
  • Dissect your training
  • Know your goal
  • Keep a journal to measure progress

Honesty Policy

Honesty Policy

Have you ever been guilty of blaming something or someone other than yourself for your problems? We all have. However, if you can't be honest about what you're doing in the gym and what food you're putting into your body, this period of stagnation could last a lifetime.

It's time for a gut check: Have you been following your training protocol to a tee? Have you been eating whole, healthy, nutrient-rich foods that you know will help you reach your goals? Have you been practicing good habits and prioritizing your health? Have you been making time to train and eat well?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your plateau may be self-induced. The only way to make progress is to stay consistent. So, if you're not doing something you know you're supposed to be doing, then it's time to start. It's also time to stop blaming your trainer, your program, or your genetics. You control you.

Know Your Goal

Know Your Goal

Another important part of getting over tough spots in your fitness journey is to reevaluate why you started in the first place. What are your fitness goals? If you don't immediately have a measureable goal, then you need to make one. "I want to lose weight" is too vague and open-ended. Instead, you should make the goal something more like, "I want to lose 10 pounds in three months."

If you've forgotten about your original goal or never really made direct plans to take you there, you're never going to feel like you're making any progress. Once you know your goal, the next step is to determine what exactly needs to be done in order to reach it.

Nutrition Notes

Nutrition Notes

Having an honest conversation with yourself about your goals and your plans to reach those goals will more than likely uncover the underlying cause of your plateau. However, it's definitely possible that you're doing everything right, but you're on the wrong plan.

If you're new to fitness, it's easy to jump on the first nutrition plan you see, but, be wary; your nutrition plan has to support your goals. So, if your primary goal is to put on muscle mass, a calorie-deficit diet is not the best way to reach it. On the other hand, if weight loss is your goal, your diet plan needs to help you do that. If you're eating too much or too little, even the most epic gym sessions won't be enough to spark change in your body.

To get your nutrition back on track, start by putting your numbers into this calculator.

Calorie Calculator

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The calculator will give you the number of calories you should be consuming to meet your goal. That number, however, is not set in stone. It may be too high or too low for your needs. Your job is to test that amount of calories for 2-3 weeks and see how it works. If you gain or lose more than 1-2 pounds per week, you're probably eating too much or too little. For long-term success, your progress should be slow and steady.

Once you've determined the proper amount of calories you should be eating, be consistent with that amount for at least four weeks. If your weight loss starts to slow down, you can think about decreasing the number of calories you're eating. However, don't ever drop below 1200 calories per day. If you start to get close to that number, consider adding 20-30 minutes of extra cardio 2-3 times per week to aid in fat loss.

If you find that your weight gain starts to slow too much, start to increase your calories by about 10 percent every 2-3 weeks. But if you start to gain more than 2 pounds per week, you may need to drop the calories back down.

Eating the right number of calories for your goals is the simplest way to ensure you're progressing. Once you feel comfortable eating the right amount of food, you can start experimenting with how those calories break down into macronutrients. If you want to try a lower-carb diet, you can make a meal plan that will allow you to do so.

Don't forget to be honest. If you often eat more calories than you need for your weight-loss goals, you won't make progress. We think a food journal of some kind is the best way to keep track of what food and how many calories you're eating.

Training Trials

Training Trials

If you know you're eating the right amount of food for your goals, and you're still not making the kind of progress you'd like to see, maybe you need to take a closer look at your workout program and examine how challenging your workouts are.

If you've been doing the exact same workouts with the same weights and the same sets and reps for the last six months, it's definitely time to change things up. Your body is a highly adaptive machine. In fact, that's what makes building muscle and losing weight so difficult. If you're doing the exact same workouts over and over, your body will just get really efficient at doing those things. You'll need fewer calories and less energy to perform those workouts at the end of three weeks than you did at the beginning. In other words, you have to consistently apply new stresses and challenges to your body if you want it to change.

Your goal for any good gym session is to perform better than you did the week before. That could mean a lot of different things. Each week, you can aim to complete more reps at the same weight, more weight at the same rep range, or more reps with less rest. You can also perform new exercises, different rep ranges, and various intensity techniques. Even doing something as simple as reversing the order of the exercises in your workout can help!

So, take a good look at your program. Are you performing the exact same exercises each and every week? If so, are you varying the weight, the reps, and the rest time? If there is no variation in your program, there's a good chance that's the reason your progress has stalled.

Measuring Progress

Measuring Progress

We think measuring progress is an important part of the plateau-busting problem, because you may not actually be stuck at all! Many people assume they're not making progress when they actually are. You may be relying on only one way to measure progress when, in fact, you should be measuring your progress in a multitude of ways.

To measure progress, we suggest using the scale, the mirror, photos, body-fat measurements, workout performance, measuring tape, and clothes. If you rely on only one of these things, you may find the numbers aren't moving the way you think they should be. However, those numbers can be deceiving. If you're losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time, your weight may not go down at all. But if your clothes fit looser and your body-fat percentage is going down, you know you're on the right track.

It's important that you check your progress in some form at least once per month. If you know stepping on the scale every day makes you feel anxious, then don't use it! Instead, use progress photos or measure your waistline.

You can also look to your performance in the gym for motivation and confirmation. Are you lifting heavier and running faster than you were when you started? Then you're making progress. Don't forget that how you perform in the gym will have a huge impact on your physique. Don't just shrug off that new squat PR because your abs aren't coming in like you thought they would. Every win matters!

It's essential that you keep a journal of your progress. It doesn't have to be fancy. Use something like BodySpace to keep track of your progress photos and track your workouts and nutrition. You should write down every workout you do, complete with the amount of weight and reps and sets you perform. You should also write down what you eat each day and any other information about how you're feeling, and any progress notes.

Next Steps

Next Steps

Give yourself time to work through each one of these steps. No sense in rushing the process, or you'll just end up back at square one. Still struggling with reaching your goal? Check out "I Don't Know How to Reach My Goal" for more tips and tricks to get you one step closer to your dream physique.

Make sure you check out the resources below for more information!