How to Break Out of a Fitness Plateau

by Lori Cipolla

First things first, what causes a fitness plateau? As our bodies become accustomed to performing the same exercise routine, they will not respond the same. The changes are not as prominent.  Your body has adapted to this particular chain of exercises and is no longer challenged. At this point, your body is burning fewer calories.


What do you do now? Typically, you will want to make adjustments in your workout routine every 4-8 weeks based on monitoring your individual progress.  Far too often, I will see people systematically do the same routine over and over and over at the gym. It’s great to want to be faithful to going to the gym, maintaining a schedule, doing your routine, and staying on plan. Just keep in mind that no plan is set in stone and if a plan isn’tworking and you stop seeing changes in your body composition, then it’s time to change up the plan.


Does this mean you can never perform these particular exercises again? NO. It doesn’t mean that at all. As a matter of fact, you may elect to not change every exercise in your routine, but instead keep one and change the sets and reps preformed. If you are having trouble with putting together different exercises, you can always seek out the advice of a personal trainer. I will provide an example of an ab workout that you would do at the end of strength training days and then a switched ab workout:


Plan A:

This is a superset, which means you do 1 set of each exercise before stopping for 45 seconds and then repeating.

Basic Crunch: 3 sets of 20 superset with plank with arm rotation: 3 sets, 8 on each side.

Decline Oblique Crunch: 3 sets of 12 superset with reverse decline crunch: 3 sets of 12.

Mountain climbers: 3 sets, 30 seconds each.

Plan B:

Bicycle crunch: 3 sets, 35 seconds each, superset with plate twist: 3 sets of 12.

Stability ball pike: 3 sets of 15 superset with stability ball crunch: 3 sets of 12.

Plank: 3, hold for 60 seconds each.


Now with that being said, your fitness routine is not the only possible reason for hitting plateaus. Some other reasons can be that you are not challenging yourself enough. You need to pick a weight that challenges you to complete a successful amount of reps. If you are doing 3 reps, you are probably using too much weight. If you are getting to that 8 mark and it’s easy sailing, guess what. The weight is probably too light.


Now remember, you are tearing muscle fibers by strength training and repairing them through food and rest to be stronger. This leads us to your food regimen.  Your meals need to have nutritional value and you should be eating enough food for your activity level.  Are you getting enough sleep? Your body needs proper amounts of rest for muscle growth.


One other important note: be careful not to overtrain. Yes, there is such a thing as overtraining. There becomes a point where our bodies can go into a state of catabolism, which can happen any time after 1 ½ hours of  training . Unfortunately, this will lead to weakening of the muscles, and who wants to lose what they worked so hard for?


The moral of the story here is that if you do hit a plateau in your workout, don’t get discouraged. It has happened to more of us than we would like to admit. The truth of the matter is that it’s very fixable. You just need to assess your situation and figure out what area of your workout routine needs tweaking. Journaling is an excellent idea to keep track of your sleep patterns, diet, training days, etc. It will help you pinpoint more easily what may need some changing.


Happy Training!


Lori Cipolla is an avid fitness and health lover. She is a certified personal trainer and currently studying for her sports nutrition certification. Lori is a Figure Athlete and took home 4th place in her 1st Worlds Show in Wbff Figure Short in August. She is now training for a spring competition. Most importantly, she is a mom of 5!


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