No matter how hard you try, the barbell will not budge. You’ve been hitting the same weight for a while now and whenever you go up, you fail. That’s a good old-fashioned plateau and it’s a lifters worst nightmare.
And when you’re stuck, and you think you’ll be there for a while, you may resort to doing crazy stuff that belongs in Cirque du Soleil rather than on the gym floor.
However, there’s no need to resort to crazy stuff when there’s few tried and true methods that will help you get stronger, build muscle and bust through plateaus. If you want squat on a stability ball, please feel free to join the circus.
The 3 main triggers for muscle hypertrophy are mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage. If you want to geek out and get more in depth with this topic, please click here.
Adding a pause in your lifts covers all these bases, if somewhat brutally. But lifting weights isn’t meant to tickle and pausing while the working muscle is under tension will test you in ways that you’ve never thought possible.
Which is another way of saying they suck. 😊
Pauses work best with compound lifts like deadlifts, squats, presses and rows but can also used for isolation exercises (Bicep curls, anyone?) to bring up a lagging muscle group.
Pauses can work on weaknesses, such as being slow off the floor when deadlifting or getting into a good squat position. Because if you’re struggling with certain positions within your lift, it helps to spend more time there, not less.
If you plan on using this technique, a 2- 3 second pause with a load between 60-80% 1 RM and lifting between 5- 10 reps works well. However, please feel free to experiment if you’re feeling particularly sadistic.
2. Every minute on the minute sets for strength
This method is synonymous with metabolic training and workout finishers at the end of a training. Starting a set every minute on the minute holds you accountable for work you do in a certain period.
However, if you dare, they can be used for strength also because strength is a skill that needs to be practiced and this method allows you to spend some quality time under the bar, not at the bar. 😊
Load a barbell with 90% 1 RM for lifts such as squats, deadlifts, presses or pulls. Set the stopwatch for anywhere between 10 – 20 minutes and do one rep every minute on the minute.
This will help you hone your technique and you’ll get stronger and better conditioned.
However, this is neurologically demanding and should be done with only one lift per workout. This is best done periodically to shake things up and to bust through strength plateaus. Please enter at your own risk.
3. Rep in a half
This is a technique in which you perform a full repetition followed by a half repetition. You can work the half rep into the easiest half of the movement, therefore stressing the muscle where it normally doesn’t get enough stress or the hardest part of the lift if you’re feeling frisky.
This technique creates a lot of muscular tension and damage, so it’s wise to start with a load between 70-80% of your 1 RM. However, you can try ramping sets to find your load also. Anywhere between 3-4 sets and 5-10 reps works well but feel free to experiment.
If you’re training for strength, this is best done after your big movement as an accessory movement and if your training for hypertrophy/fat loss it’s best done at the start of your training when you’re all fired up.
Embrace the burn baby if you want to get better.
4. Change your body position
When you’re banging your head into a brick wall you need to take a step back to find another way forward and changing your body position is one of those ways.
Most exercises are either done standing, sitting, lying on a bench or in front of a mirror admiring one’s self.
However, don’t forget there are a few other body positions you can lift from including
- Supine (Lying on the floor face up)
- Tall kneeling
- Half kneeling
Lifting from these positions will require using less weight because of the reduced base of support. However, they will require more total body engagement, especially from your mid-section. This will help shore up any weaknesses/strength imbalances that you may’ve developed.
If you’ve run into a road block with your upper body training, give these exercises a try. Then when you go back to the lift that was giving you trouble, you’ll crush it like a bug.
There’s no need to doing anything drastic when you’re stuck in a plateau. A few minor changes in technique is all you need to get back on track again. If you don’t believe me, I hear the circus is hiring.