The Weight Training Plateau - Have You Hit Yours?

The weight training plateau

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

Here we'll look at some of the causes and effects of this phenomenon.

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

What Is a Training Plateau?

A weight training plateau specifically: is a halt in your training, fitness or even weight 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 deeper discussion on these subjects will be for another article...

Primarily we are going to focus on weight training plateaus or (strength and new muscle growth 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 often from continuous unchanged effort, 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 each 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. 

Try to keep in mind, 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; If don't quit-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, meaning: they could be adding or changing intensity, or using tougher exercises 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, they would always come back to the gym with renewed vigour.

To get past your weight training plateau ask yourself; are you challenging yourself by:

  1. Increasing resistance 
  2. Changing exercises to suit weaker body parts
  3. Adding or focusing on increasing strength by using compound-exercises
  4. Changing the volume of your Reps and their speed
  5. Being instinctive, add a few more sets that strongly affect overall strength.
  6. Shorting rest intervals.
  7. Changing exercise order/routine and verity.
  8. Are making sure that you’re eating enough calories and protein from good nutritious sources to accommodate this new intensity.
  9. Cycle your training regularly and Don't be afraid to take an extended break between these cycles.

All of these strategies add up to one thing: increased intensity, this is how you begin to push through a weight training plateau. Staying focused on your goal is what gets us through the dips in 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

Illustrating 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.

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.

This is only a temporary hold on progress towards your goal. Breaking through any weight training plateau, is as much mental as it is physical.

Often athletes get frustrated or angered by this, making some training plateaus last a long time even indefinitely, before new growth is seen again. Weak or 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...

The Demands of increasing ones strength and muscular growth or even weight loss of a strict diet are huge demands you’re putting on your body - ultimately stressing it a lot at times. 

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, it may be time to consider taking a break:

Let it 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 is 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...

I actually take pleasure in the thought that my body has plateaued; this to me is a strong indicator that I'm on the right track to getting to the next level of my goal.

Consider taking a week or two weeks off completely from the gym: to the weight training obsessed this may not seem right, but...

This is a 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, with a renewed vigour in the training days ahead.

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, the body simply does this in its time, not yours!

Learning From Your Weight Training Plateau

Hercules immortalized

Try avoid becoming discouraged or negatively impacted by your weight training plateau, it's only nature’s way of giving or 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 life and the weight training lifestyle, this keeps-up morale and motivation. 

Once the body gets used to an 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.

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


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

Try not to be too hard on your body, try encourage new training stimulation by varying exercise verity, 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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