Strength training yields so many benefits, including a leaner and more toned appearance, and better performance and endurance. When you first begin strength training, you are likely to see improvements quickly and steadily, but at a certain point, those gains begin to level off.
To some extent, this is normal, and it means you are getting close to your max output, but you do not have to remain stuck on that plateau forever. To get faster results, try these six tricks.
Warm Ups and Cool Downs
It can be so tempting to skip warm-ups and cool downs, especially if you are already pressed for time. However, you’re not doing yourself or your muscles any favors by forgoing these two extremely important workout stages.
A warm-up is meant to get your blood pumping, so you have optimum circulation throughout all of your muscles. Muscles which are not receiving enough oxygen or blood flow will not be able to perform to their maximum ability, which means you won’t be getting as much benefit from the workout as you could.
Cool downs also offer a very important transition between your workout and your recovery time. Allowing your body a more gentle transition between the two can aid your recovery, and get you faster results.
Work Muscles to “Failure”
You know how you are always being told to train with a spotter? Here’s why. To get the absolute best results out of your strength training routine, you should work out to the point of muscle failure. This means that the last rep you do is absolutely the last rep you can do. In other words, if you are effortlessly hooking that barbell back into place on your own, you are not working out hard enough.
Working your muscles to the point of failure means you have successfully broken down enough muscle protein to trigger the rebuilding process. When you tear down muscle fiber in this way, your body automatically prompts your system to regrow your muscle fiber stronger and leaner than before so it can keep up with these workouts. If you are not pushing yourself to that point, then your muscles are not going to get any stronger.
Work in a Four-Part Cycle
Now, we just talked about working your muscles to the point of failure, but that does not mean you should be going absolutely all out with your max weight every time you work out.
Consider starting a four-part cycle. For simplicity’s sake we will make this cycle four weeks long.
Week one is for conditioning. This means working all of your muscle groups with low weights and high reps which will help to increase your cardiovascular health, lengthen your endurance time, and condition your muscles for extended workouts.
Week two is for strength. Use a higher weight (not your max) and a lower number of reps. These workouts are designed to build and maintain strength in your muscles. You should definitely feel exhausted by the end of this workout, but not completely spent.
Week three is for power. On this week, you will focus on your max weight. The number of reps doesn’t matter so much, as you are looking to put up your max weight at least once, and begin trying to push past your max. You most definitely need a spotter for this workout.
Week four is for rest. After pushing your muscles in such a challenging workout, don’t forget to devote an entire week to allowing your muscles to repair.
Sticking with this four-week cycle will help you to make gains again, and push past what you previously thought was your “limit.”
Replenish Your Protein After a Workout
However you do it – with whole foods, shakes, or bars – it’s very important that you take in protein almost immediately after a heavy workout. Your body begins repairing your muscle fiber straight away, so provide it with the protein it needs for adequate repair.
You absolutely must prioritize sleep in your schedule in order to achieve faster results with strength training. Set reminders, or anything else you may need to do to ensure you’ve allocated yourself eight whole hours of sleep each night for best results.
Keep Hitting the Gym
If your strength training workouts are less than 30 minutes long, you may be shorting yourself on many of the health benefits you could be enjoying. It takes approximately 30 minutes for your body to fully engage in the workout, and every minute you spend beyond that is a minute where you are conditioning your body, and improving strength. Tapping out too early, or doing too short a circuit may be what’s holding you back.
In short, strength training is a wonderful way to exercise, but as with any other type of exercise, it may take a while to see results. Your best bet is to stay the course, and avoid any extremes.
For instance, trying to put up your max weight in every single workout is more likely to produce injuries than anything else. Also, working out for four straight hours is not likely to benefit you any more than a well-rounded one hour circuit would.
While slow and steady is best, by following these six tips you can absolutely conquer that unwelcome plateau and increase your gains again.