Fitness Plateaus: Objective or Subjective?

Have you ever reached a point in your fitness path, where you thought “I cannot do any more,” or just simply felt like you cannot get stronger/faster/in better shape to meet your fitness goal? This is called a fitness plateau. They suck. Often times, you are taxed both physically and mentally. The question becomes how to break through this.

First, lets really dissect what a fitness plateau is. There are so many factors that can contribute to a plateau. To name a few…

  • Not adding variation to a training program
  • Outside stresses (school, personal life, jobs, etc)
  • Nutritional timing
  • Overall motivation (burnt out from training hard for so long)
  • Timing (Training at the end of a long day)

Those are just a few of the factors that can play into a plateau. But, what do they all have in common.

They are all specific to an individual.

I know how they feel as I have experienced a plateau. From ages 18 to 20, my bench press did not go up a single pound. To get a clearer picture, that is two years I spent programming, training my butt off, and eating right that resulted in no progress. It seems like there are no ways out of it. Let me tell you, there are. Why? Because plateaus are subjective. Subjective, meaning they are more often than not mental limitations rather than physical limitations.

One summer ago, I crushed my two year long plateau. My bench press went up 35 lbs over the course of a few months, and let me explain how I did it.

  1. First off, I narrowed my goal down. For the previous two years, I trained broadly to be the best possible pitcher I could be while watching my figure. This particular summer, I shifted from this mindset of training to another more focused goal, bench more.
  2. After I decided I wanted to bench more, I had to find out the most optimal way to do so in a few months. Often times in training, the most optimal way to reach a very specific goal is frequent variation of the movement (more on this in the next step). The result: I benched heavy two to three times a week. (DISCLAIMER: I was twenty years old, and my body was still very young and was used to intense training. I had the ability to absorb a ton of frequent stress to my body. I would not recommend if you are already doing a highly stressful training program or new to training!)
  3. Lastly, I took action. On my heavy benching days, I would shift my focus anywhere from 3 reps, 2 reps, or 1 rep flat bench press maxes mixed in with 3 board and 2 board bench press variations.

What I hope my story of plateaus provides for my readers is that they are breakable. I promise.

The most likely case for your plateau is a mental barrier that is caused by a simple and rarely-changed training program. Your body, as I am sure you have heard before, is always adapting. This is very true when it comes to training programs.

You need to understand that there are so many little variations, change of pace strategies, and forms of basic exercises available, that your training should never reach a plateau.

My suggestion to you is to follow the three-step plan that I used to break my personal plateau: Narrow down your goal, choose a path to do so, and take action. You can achieve more than you thought, I promise.

Training and/or working out is simple, but simple does not mean easy; Do your homework, ask people who are “experts” in your desired branch of fitness, get started!

Justin Page

GU ‘18


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