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Getting Past the Workout Plateau
by Justin Leonard
Written on November 20, 2000

Has your training progress come to a screeching halt? If so, chances are you've experienced what's known as "the plateau." This is caused when the muscles are unable to progress in strength or endurance as a result of overtraining.

The human body is naturally structured to become immune to workout stress. This is why some people come to a halt in training and cannot progress. They perform the same workout at the same favorite weight bench over and over again. The body actually begins to adapt to repetitive training regiments over time.

There are several ways to get around this hurdle: One is to not set your workout schedule based on what you can fit into 1 week. Instead, base it on a 2-week cycle. For example, try working out 2 days on and 2 days off. Perform this routine for about 6 weeks, then take a full week off. Maybe try 3 days on, 2 days off, and 1 day on.

Ultimately, your goal should be to prevent the body from becoming immune to your workouts. Experiment with different workout schedules. Be sure to switch your workout often. There are two additional remedies for delays in muscle gain: supersetting and rest.

Supersetting is done when two or more different exercises are done back to back. This is usually performed with little or no rest in between sets. For example, lets' say you're nearing the end of a leg workout. At the end of the leg training routine, return to the leg extension and leg curl machines. Perform about 20 reps of leg extensions, then with little or no rest perform 20 reps of leg curls back to back. You should feel a serious burn in the muscles since they are already pre-exhausted from all of the previous exercise sets and reps.

Since the body is not used to undergoing this type of stress, the chances of muscle growth are greatly increased. The idea is to actually confuse or throw the body's system off-track so that it is forced to work in new ways. Read the last sentence again!

"The human body is naturally structured to become immune to workout stress."

- Justin Leonard, ISSA CFT


Resting is probably one of the most neglected elements of strength training. If you violate this rule, you can forget about muscle gains! Most people think, "the more I workout, the bigger I'll get." This is a big, often made mistake. Rest should not be a rare occurrence. This is true for several reasons. The main reason is that resting is when the muscles actually grow.

There are two types of rest: One is the rest in between sets. The other is rest during days off from training. Rest times during a workout routine will vary depending on the person. Approximately 2 or more minutes in between sets is average, although too much rest during a workout isn't good because it can cool down the muscles, causing them to lose peak performance. Chances of injury are also increased because the muscles become cold.

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