When the scale or barbell isn’t budging use these 3 tips to bust through your plateaus

Note- this is a new and improved version of this article and version also appeared here. This is my edited version.

Progress in the gym is a lot like life. It’s never in a straight line.

When you started out exercising, progress came easily and slapping more weight on or doing more reps than last time was just second nature.

You’d look in the mirror, strike a pose and realize you’d gotten a little sexier. Ah yes, those were the days.

Have you ever seen a mirror you didn’t like?

However, as you move further along in this journey, it becomes more of a struggle to get to the gym and to lift anything in the attempt to get better.

When this started happening, I thought I was doing something wrong. I would try to work out harder but to no avail. All I got was a rock.  

But, after some trial and error, (alright a lot of errors) I realized that changing a few variables was just the kick-start I needed.

The following tips have been around long time (and trust me I’ve been around for a while) because they work. It’s not as sexy as twisting yourself into a pretzel but when you look into the mirror, you’ll be pleased.


The three main triggers for muscle hypertrophy are mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage. Building more muscle helps with fat loss and looking great in the mirror.

Adding a pause to your lifts covers all these bases.  But fair warning, this is not for the faint of heart.

However, 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. But you’ll be busting through your plateaus in no time. 🙂

Pauses work best with compound lifts like deadlifts, squats, presses and rows but also can be used for isolation exercises (Bicep curls, anyone?) to bring up a lagging muscle group.

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 energetic .

2. Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) Sets for Strength

This method is associated 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 practicing 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 get stronger and better conditioned. And you’ll leave your plateaus in the dust.

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 plateaus.

3. Adding half a rep

Adding a partial rep during most strength training exercises repetitions will increase your muscles time under tension, helping you ‘feel’ the exercise more and aid in your fat loss or muscle building efforts.

However, this doesn’t tickle and be prepared for the burn.

When doing a rep in a half, be conservative a lower your usual weight for the exercise by 5-10 pounds or more. And anywhere between 8-12 reps (a rep in a half equals one rep) will do the trick.

You can thank me later.

Wrapping Up

You don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water when you plateau. Just adding small changes to what you’re already doing will have you flexing, smiling and loving the mirror again.

If you’re stuck and need some exercise help or advice please touch base with me here.

Email- shanemcleantraining@gmail.com

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