5 Possible Reasons Why You’ve Plateaued in the Gym and How to Fix Them
5 min read
One of the most frustrating gym experiences that no one is immune to is hitting a plateau at a certain point in time. If you’ve plateaued but don’t understand or know the fix then here are possible reasons why you’ve plateaued in the gym and ways to fix them.
Break your current ceiling and crawl out onto the next floor.
1. Poor Form
What’s the Problem: There is a lot wrong with having poor form, but sticking to the topic of hitting a plateau, poor form leads to such because (for the most part) your muscles aren’t fully conditioned to the motion involved and the bad form is potentially recruiting the wrong muscle groups into the exercise to supplement the wrong motion, effectively also disallowing the intended muscles to develop as they’re meant to.
Why is this a Problem: The whole point of proper form is to protect your body from injuries and to train the correct muscle groups to get used to the strain involved in the motion of an exercise. When weights get heavier, injuries become more likely and muscle recruitment to accomplish the motion intensifies. If you’ve been doing an exercise with poor form, your muscles are likely underdeveloped and haven’t been properly conditioned to deal with certain weights – hence the plateau. This is also why ego lifting doesn’t help and why it’s best to identify if you’re guilty of ego lifting.
What’s the Fix: Go online and watch videos (preferably on YouTube – not TikTok, not Instagram) that give instructions and tips on how to correct your form, and how to be mindful of muscle recruitment when a lift gets harder. When you have the basics down, go back to the gym, lower your weight, and rebuild your strength from the ground up.
2. Fixed/Shifting Routines
What’s the Problem: So, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to a tried and tested method for an elongated period, or even switching to different routines to keep things from going stale. However, it becomes problematic when you’ve been doing the same exercises without injecting some changes here or there to keep stimulating your muscles for an elongated period, or when you’re switching up exercises so frequently that your muscles haven’t gotten used to a routine and sets of movement patterns.
Why is this a Problem: If you’ve stayed on the same program for an elongated period your routine and development may stagnant because you’re not incorporating other techniques to keep muscle stimulation ongoing. In contrast, if you’re regularly changing routines, this may become detrimental because your muscles haven’t gotten enough stimulation to master a routine before you’re already moving onto something new and training the muscles differently.
What’s the Fix: If you enjoy your routine but you find that you’ve stagnated, incorporate advanced techniques like time under tension, supersets, or shorter rest intervals to reinvigorate muscle stimulation. Whereas, if you enjoy trying new routines, incorporate one routine at a time; focus on one for roughly 8-12 weeks, minimum, before adopting a new routine.
3. Nutrition is Not Right
What’s the Problem: How you eat is not conducive to your exercising goal(s). That is to say, you’re not eating in a way that helps you achieve your workout goals.
Why is this a Problem: Food gives us energy and depending on what your end-goal(s) is/(are), food will help with growth, strength, or endurance.
What’s the Fix: Eat in line with your goals: if you want to increase the weights of your lifts, you likely need to pick up weight, whereas if you want to be shredded, it’s a matter of dropping weight. Your macros and micros also come into play so don’t just increase or cut food; understand what nutrients will further you in your goal and how you can increase the consumption of certain nutrients as you lessen others. Compare a powerlifter and bodybuilder; the powerlifter is stronger, but has more body fat whereas the bodybuilder is more defined but is “smaller”. They each eat differently. Therefore, if you’ve plateaued and you want to increase your lifts, chances may be that you need to pick up weight and also, effectively, increase your body fat.
What’s the Problem: Exercising too much.
Why is this a Problem: Muscles aren’t built in the gym, they’re built outside of one. Specifically, the time spent exercising is time spent tearing muscles, and when you stop and sleep that is when your body gets its chance to recover in order to prep for the next training session. If you’re overtraining, you’re not providing your body with enough time to repair and catch up to your daily routine.
What’s the Fix: There are several ways of fixing this. The first method is to have more rest days or better quality rest days. The second method is to stop doing too much in the gym and calm down; this can be achieved by doing fewer exercises or spending less time working out (unless you’re a professional or engage in an endurance-focused activity, anything around the two-hour mark or more is too much). And the third method is to improve your nutrition, because chances are you’re underfeeding yourself. These factors are typically covered when you adopt good exercising habits.
5. Mental Game is Off
What’s the Problem: Mentally, your head isn’t in the right place to exercise. Being mentally off can occur due to a number of reasons; you’re stressed, (for whatever reason) you’re emotionally distressed, you’re distracted, or you might just not be taking exercising seriously enough and you’ve got some shitty exercising habits that need fixing.
Why is this a Problem: Working out with a wrong or weak mentality can debilitate your progress. How many activities can you half-ass and still achieve positive, progressive results? Exercising is the same thing; you can’t advance if you’re not focusing and working hard with purposeful, clear intentions.
What’s the Fix: Clear your head when you’re exercising; be mindful and present of the moment. Put aside distracting thoughts like what you intend to do after the workout or things bothering you beyond the workout. Just focus on what’s taking place in front of you and how your body is feeling along the workout: did a set feel difficult or easy … are your rest intervals too short, too long, or just right … how is your form … is it easy or hard to reach your target rep range …? Just focus on the workout, nothing else should matter.
Growth happens outside of our comfort zones, so you might need to stop babying yourself and try pushing yourself in workouts, also.