Everyone hits a training plateau at one point or another in his or her resistance program. Young, old, male or female, this frustrating period in a training regime knows no bounds.
What Causes A Training Plateau?
For starters, the adaptation response where a body gets accustomed to a certain level of physical activity can be the cause of a training plateau. In order to make further physique improvements, the training stimulus should be dynamic or changing. Progressive resistance training is a good example of a dynamic training program, where the objective of each training session is adding additional weight, reps or sets.
In theory, you can set a goal of higher reps and sets at each workout, but in reality, your strength and/or muscle mass will grow in steps. Factors such as nutrition, stress levels, recovery time, sleep and emotional state will affect your output in the gym.
Baby boomers, please remember. Progressive resistance training IS NOT one of our goals at each training session. Instead, cycles of progressive resistance training suit the over 40-fitness enthusiast. Our bodies are undergoing major physiological changes that MUST BE taken into consideration if we expect to be lifting in our 70s, 80s and 90s. As boomers, we cycle into periods of heavier weights through a periodization plan, which take into account the stress placed on our aging joints.
Here is an example of one of our readers that could benefit from cycling progressive resistance into her routine.
I am 43 and I have just begun to work out. I joined Curves and I do the Firm videos. I also do Rebook and walk 40 minutes a day. I am 15 lbs over the weight I should be for my height. The first thing is, I want to build up my butt again... and shed the thigh fat (inner). I had 4 children and now my metabolism has shifted. I take 45-55 grams of protein a day. (I weigh 142) I also take calcium and glucosamine to help me through my strength endurance. I am always out of breath though.
What do you recommend for me? Lunges and more protein? Someone else said I would never build something that i never had.
Good for you! At 43, and after four children, you've decided to get back in shape. It's never too late to start your quest for an improved physique that in addition provides an improved level of health and quality of life.
Curves is a very introductory experience into the world of resistance training. Muscle is built when it is stimulated to an overload capacity. Curves will provide a cozy, female friendly atmosphere; but with limited circuit training stations and without the iron plates to add resistance, you are not going to be able to create an overload situation that builds muscle. But, once again, Curves got you started, just look at this program as your launching pad. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for gyms in your area and check out our previous articles for more specifics on training.
Walking is a great form of exercise as it is easy on your joints. Set goals for yourself in terms of speed and/or duration. Using a treadmill on an incline (don't hold on) will also provide an effective calorie burning session.
I would probably recommend a higher level of protein to support your muscle building efforts. For now Cheryl, one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is a simple guideline to follow during your initial stages of the muscle building process.
And for your final question. Can you build something you never had? I never had muscle until I started weightlifting in my 40s. It's never too late to begin reaping the benefits of a fit and healthy lifestyle. For more details, check out my story at my website.
The second reason most people hit a plateau is nutrition. The next letter is very representative of emails that we receive at Legendary Fitness. Thomas set goals, lost 25 pounds, is engaged in resistance training and cardio. He's provided details about many aspects of his exercise routine, but none about nutrition.
Help! Man, I am at a loss. Have been lifting for 13 months, lost 25 lbs. my goal is to lose fat, add muscle. I lift 4 days a week and walk, cycle 2 days a week. I am white male, 40 yrs. old in very good-excellent health. Just need to be in better shape. I have hit the wall -plateau and feel stuck.
I'll bet the answer to your plateau lies in your nutritional intake, as you mention nothing about your daily nutritional intake. Many times upon further evaluation, Richard and I find that people are unaware of the amount of food and/or portion that is consumed. It's so easy to take a little nibble or taste and forget that those morsels of food throughout a day can add up to hundreds of calories. And those additional calories that are insignificant at the time could be the reason you have hit the wall.
Nothing works better than a nutritional journal to get a comprehensive understanding of your daily caloric intake and percentages of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Write down EVERY bite you put into your mouth for five days. Then assess the areas that need improvement. Are you really eating clean 100% of the time? Are you really taking in a sufficient amount of protein for your weight? Are your carbohydrates complex in nature?
So to break through your plateau, Thomas, start with your nutritional plan. Keep your journal and eat completely clean for four weeks. Then re-evaluate to see what progress you've made.
Overtraining Is The Third Cause Of Training Plateaus!
While we think that overtraining is an easy plateau to overcome, some of the "addictive" qualities of physique enhancement may lead to overtraining. Based upon the notion that resistance training causes positive physique changes, some lifters believe more resistance training will create more positive physique changes. For some, this creates an overtraining environment.
Remember baby boomer, muscle grows during the recovery process, NOT in the gym. So get to the gym, do your planned and cycled workout and get out to recover and build muscle.
I am 46 years old and I really enjoy lifting weights. The trouble is That I hear so much conflicting advice from various sources that I am now totally confused about what to do as far as my routine. In a word, I need help! First of all, my stats. I am 5'2" and weigh 113 lbs. I want to keep at this weight but I also want to build some more muscle, especially in the upper body. I currently do whole body weight training every other day for about 1 hour and follow that with 1/2 of intense cardio. On non-lifting days I do 1 hour of intense cardio.
I have been doing this for about a year but my results are not very impressive at all. I expected more muscle growth or at least muscle definition by now. I have been told to split my weight training into upper body one day, lower body the next day. This, I was told would help me concentrate on specific muscle groups better and achieve better results.
Yes, there is much conflicting information out there! Lots of varying theories to sell many different products is found on the web and in magazines. At Legendary Fitness, we pride ourselves on only presenting information that is backed by VALID scientific evidence. And our following of readers send regular emails with a common theme, "finally, a place to find the truth about exercise, nutrition and aging." Bodybuilding.com has the same goals as our business, check out their testimonials page for more.
Rita, first of all... intense cardio is just that. Intense. Therefore, if cardio is to be intense it is short in duration, as there exists an inverse relationship between intensity and time. If your cardio is truly intense for an hour, then you are clearly overtraining and creating a catabolic environment that will eat away at your muscle. Former Mr. Olympia, Larry Scott uses intense cardio sessions of 3 minutes in duration, while Dave Draper discusses intense interval training using 12-minute sessions.
Whole body weight training on an every-other-day basis could be another source of overtraining. Bodyparts when worked hard enough will require more than 48 hours to recovery enough to be ready for the next workout.
Re-evaluate your workout routine, grouping a few bodypart together in a session, which will allow focus on an area, for example, chest and back or triceps and biceps, develop a periodization cycle for training and allow ample recovery time between your workouts.
At 5'2" and 113 pounds, you are fairly lean, so a well-designed lifting/cardio/nutrition program should have you to your goal of muscle definition in no time. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress! And finally, in conjunction with overtraining, not enough recovery time and inadequate amounts of sleep can result in training plateaus.
From increased levels of cortisol that research shows leads to weight gain to the catabolic state induced by sleep deprivation, your efforts in the gym will be affected when you are not able to give 100% effort. And a vicious cycle is created where reduced efforts leads to reduces levels of endorphins, leaving us with lower levels of motivation to achieve our goals.
Baby boomers, as always, are message is to train smart so that these aging bodies will serve us well for many decades to come. Enjoy the process and learn from a continuous evaluation of results. Tighten up nutrition plans where necessary, assess if weightlifting truly stresses the muscle group worked, or is it a simple motion that can be performed while carrying on a conversation at the next station. Evaluate the possibility of overtraining, but remember, it's a fine line between intensity and overtraining. And look at the factors of recovery and sleep time which are critical elements of a physique development plan.
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Copyright 2003. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved.
The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.