The Weight Training Plateau

The weight training plateau

Welcome to the weight training plateau: most male-female lifters will not see much in the way of training plateaus until you begin to hit the intermediate stage of training.

This article looks at some of the causes and effects of this phenomenon.

I encourage you: to not dread a plateau, instead: look forward and accept them as part of a natural-cycle of weight training.

What Is a Training Plateau?

A weight training plateau specifically: is a halt in your training fitness or dietary-fat-loss progress

There are essentially two types of plateaus faced with fitness; the first one can be one of two things, also referred to as a (body plateau), this can be experienced as a weight-loss plateau or weight-gain. A deep discussion on this subject is for another article...

Primarily we are going to focus on weight training plateaus or (strength – muscle mass plateaus).

There are essentially two types of plateaus faced with fitness; the first one can be one of two things, also referred to as a (body plateau), this can be experienced as a weight-loss plateau or weight-gain. A deep discussion on this subject is for another article...

Primarily we are going to focus on weight training plateaus or (strength – muscle mass plateaus).

A plateau is simply a halt to your training expectations or goal. This can be a halt in your overall strength gains or perhaps a new limit has been reached in muscular development, often both can be halted at the same time.

Beginners, even early intermediates generally don’t have, to worry about reaching a plateau, this begins to come on after the 8 to 10 month mark of consistent weight training.

A plateau is a natural occurring cycle from continuous unchanged effort, often caused by lack of variety or training intensity.

From the stock market to Mother Nature, including the cyclical orbits of the planets, life just seems to like to working in cycles.

Weight training plateaus are really a cycle; how long these cycles last often, is up to the athlete, meaning: if you don't cycle your training with different intensities and variety, including rest, sorry to say: these can last indefinitely!

You need to look at your training differently, adjust the reality dial of how you think; changing this dial inspires and initiates lost motivation. 

Just remember, just because you're not seeing or feeling new muscle or strength gains does not mean it's over, it's just a question of time as you continue to work at your goal; you will break through your training plateau.

Be Progressive, Increase intensity To Break Through Your Plateau

Increase intensity

I often get asked how to deal with weight training plateaus? I often return the question with; "Are you in sync with your intensity by pushing and challenging yourself"?

Each individual that’s training has to answer this question honestly. Somehow this seems to get lost in translation of what it really means.

When i go through a workout, or part of it with someone asking this question, I often see many areas that are weak in their training and development, they could be adding or changing intensity, or exercises and attacking weak areas first, when energy levels are at their highest.

When I would explain and show them these areas and show how to increase intensity. The next time; they would always come back to the gym with renewed vigor.

To get past your weight training plateau, challenge yourself by:

  1. Increasing resistance 
  2. Change exercises to suit weaker body parts
  3. Add or focus on increasing strength by using compound-exercises
  4. Change the volume of your Reps and their speed
  5. Be instinctive, add a few more sets to exercises that strongly affect        weaker body parts
  6. Shorten rest intervals.
  7. Increase intensity through decreased rest between workouts
  8. Also make sure that you’re eating enough calories and protein from good nutritious sources to accommodate this new intensity.

All of these strategies add up to one thing; increased intensity, this is how you begin to push through a weight training plateau. Stay focused on your goal, this gets you through dips in your overall training progress.

Resist the urge to give up, or quit, in-time your efforts will (reveal a very new reflection in your mirror)!

The Mental Test of Training Plateaus

This chart illustrates the Weight Training Plateau, where you have them and how change can be applied to achieve your ultimate training goal.

Training plateau chart

Keeping a positive outlook in your training-and-life.

This has more to do with your success than you might imagine. Instead of dreading a halt in progress, be positive and creative, except that a rest or change is inevitable and healthy, this stimulates new growth mentally and physically.

As mentioned: this is a temporary hold in your overall progress towards your goal. Breaking through your weight training plateau is as much mental as it is physical.

Often athletes get frustrated and angered by this, making some training plateaus last a long time even indefinitely, before new growth is seen again. Weak and unconditioned lifters generally have a tendency to want to quit and give up at this point.

Don’t be fooled by negative emotions: become Lord and Master over your own body, just be aware...

Demanding new strength increases, muscular growth and fat loss, are huge demands you’re putting on your body - this stresses it a lot. It panics and releases mechanisms to halt progress, ultimately; this is protecting you from yourself, from injury or over-training.

Having said that: work with your body, it’s the only one you’ve got. Love and appreciate it, continue to add intensity as your body and nervous systems conditioning grows and can handle it.

Pushing Past The Weight Training plateau

Hitting the plateau

When your body does eventually plateau. I personally take this time, to take a break. This is my body, telling me it needs this break...

To reset itself, not unlike a computer, some think if they continue to train, even vigorously this will get them passed it to enter a new stage of growth and strength gains. At some advanced levels, this may be true. But…

When my body has plateaued and begins telling me it’s had enough, I make sure I listen!

I actually put some short-term plans in place that have nothing to do with weight training, but everything to do with new stimulation and act on these to regenerate and rejuvenate me...

I actually look forward to returning to the gym when I’m finished these things.

Take a week, to-two-weeks off completely from the gym, to the weight training obsessed, this may not seem right, but…

This is one place where I give my body what it’s asking for. After this time of rest and recuperation, I begin to plan a routine to take me to a new lifting level, then I go back with renewed vigor.

I actually take pleasure in the thought that my body plateaued, this means: I was working hard to get to the next level of; (my goal). 

A plateau is a great reward, if viewed it this sense, each time your body has a growth or strength spurt, this is your body's way of rewarding you for your efforts, but… does so in its time, not yours!

Learning From Your Weight Training Plateau

Hercules immortalized

Again: try not to become discouraged or negatively impacted by your weight training plateau, it's nature’s way of giving and rewarding you a new level as you cycle through new training plateaus.

Forcing or pushing this natural curve of your body generally; only results in training burnout or injury.

Frustration at this lack of progress should be minimized by enjoying your life and the weight training lifestyle, this keeps-up morale and motivation. 

Once the body gets used to a intensity level slowly begin to introduce new training strategies and different ways of creatively- increasing intensity in your training routine. This eventually, will allow the body to reward you again, by cycling to a new weight training plateau.

Try to remember when the body does make this cycle to a new plateau. It is generally short-lived one or two months for the most part: is generally all the body gives at one time, with regards to muscle or strength gains.

This time-frame of course can be impacted by age, gender, genetic and athletic ability.


I hope some of the info has here helps keep you on the right path and your head in the game.

Try not to be too hard on your body or yourself, always try to encourage yourself, be positive and appreciative of what your body gives you. Being discouraged and full of despair only eats at the positive fabric of your efforts.

I wish you all the best, and take this time to enjoy your weight training plateau, as much as the effort you put into achieve them; as each one of these are important, (as they show progress). Keep your eye on your primary goal; if you don’t have one, make one.

Never give up just because you’ve plateaued, your body will continue to give you what you want, just be patient with its pace.

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