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Friday, July 13, 2012

How to Break a Fitness Plateau -Part II

Last week’s post on overcoming fitness plateaus focused on dietary and lifestyle aspects of training that could be preventing you from reaching your goals. This week, we take a look at some more strategies, this time targeting the way you spend your time in the gym…

•    Change up your workout-Fitness experts are always talking about how important it is to change up your workout and keep your body guessing; that’s good advice. But what is meant by “changing things up?  Can you be more specific?  Well, sure...

Get honest with yourself –There’s no need to bring yourself to the brink of death to experience a training effect.  But let’s be honest…are you hot and sweaty when you finish working out?  Or do you chit chat your way from one side of the gym to the other, with no
training tempo, little focus, and no sweat?  Is this really your best effort?  The easiest variable to identify is this one because deep down, you know if you’re really working hard…you know.   Now do something about it. 

Lift heavier- If you can lift a given weight on a given exercise for more than 12 reps-it’s too light.  Now, we can get into a whole discussion about rep ranges, training goals, about not wanting to bulk up, how you want a dancer’s body, etc. but, let’s just agree on one thing, there is a time and a purpose for adding muscle mass and for the most part, unless you’re a supermodel with a contract for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover, and are being paid exceptionally well to look like a skeleton, you can not only afford to put some muscle on your frame, you’ll be a lot leaner in the long run if you do.

Add some unstable surface training.  Core, core, core. If you hang out in fitness circles, that’s all you ever hear about-and with 80% of the population suffering from low back pain at some point in their lives, it’s important to protect yours at all costs.  Core (which includes everything from the arm pits to the knees by the way), is your fitness foundation, what you build your “house” upon.  If it is weak (and there are more of those that are weak than aren’t), you will not be able to support the movements in your workout which can and often does lead to strained muscles, ligaments and tendons (injuries), over time.  Unstable training helps the core “fire” on all cylinders. Once you are able to engage it, control it, and involve it in every movement you make, you will develop an unshakable foundation and the best insurance policy against lower back pain.  Unstable surface training can help a great deal to that end.  Bosu ball, single leg training, wobble boards, War Machine, etc., the modalities are endless.  One important thing to remember is that there is no point in being unstable for the sake of being unstable as we so often see in gyms these days.  That is not what we mean by functional.  "Functional" should have real-world, practical application.  The debate about what the meaning of functional is, is a post for another day. Use common sense so that you don’t get hurt.

When your body makes frequent, tiny adjustments relative to its position in space, it’s the core that is being challenged to maintain proper posture and stability.  Through unconscious messaging from the brain, this continual adaptation is a “good stress” which, over time, strengthens the entire core structure.

Add some explosive movements. Remember when you were a kid and all you did was run and jump around?  All that jumping served a greater purpose than just driving your parents nuts. It was the genesis of physical activity in your young life.  It also put “stress” on your bones, a positive stress that helped your growing bones get strong and hard through adaptation. Throughout life, bone is constantly being broken down and rebuilt.  Stronger, harder bone is always being created although the process slows down as we get older. The same goes for tendons and ligaments. Jumping (when done correctly) keeps these tissues nourished and pliable with nutrients delivered via the bloodstream to the working muscles and to a lesser degree, the denser, tougher tendons and ligaments.  By incorporating explosive training into your workouts, the next time you twist your ankle in a lawn sprinkler hole, you just might avoid crutches!

We’ve gotten away from athleticism in much of our physical activity these days.  Doing a little jumping helps you “remember” how to control your body and move it through space. Some great ideas for jumping activities are: jumping jacks, hopping on one foot, plyometric jumps (like jumping up onto a bench or a box), burpees (AKA squat thrusts), jump rope, or the soccer drill “toe taps.”

We never stop needing functional ability for daily activities.  If you’re in your 70’s or 80’s, you still need the ability to get up and out of your car after you park it.  This doesn’t happen in slow motion! (or at least it shouldn’t.)  Relatively speaking, this is an explosive movement. Use it or lose it no doubt applies.

Incorporate unilateral or asymmetrical exercises into your workout. The goal in this type of training is to stay even or symmetrical in spite of the forces that are acting upon you, challenging your stability. This technique will again, really work your core in a functional way; keeping your body ready for any “real life” challenge.  Some examples include:  1-arm, 1-leg dumbbell overhead presses, 1-arm dumbbell chest presses, 2 point dumbbell row, 1-leg deadlift, pistol squats, 1-arm dumbbell split squat (AKA stationery lunge.)

Everyone who has exercised on a regular basis has experienced a plateau in their training.  There can be many reasons why these plateaus occur. Sometimes it’s as simple as not drinking enough water or drinking too many beers. Not getting enough starchy carbs can sometimes keep you from losing fat, believe it or not.

A “perfect storm” of events can cause a plateau.  For example, an undiagnosed condition like a low-grade infection coupled with a nutrient deficiency or/and a poor diet, or it may simply be that you’ve attenuated to your fitness routine.  The body can attenuate (adapt) to almost anything.  Experiment with these suggestions.  Try some of your own.  But the key is in making strategic changes.  Break your routine, break the plateau.

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Fitness expert and integrative performance coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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  1. This post is an excellent, TI keep returning to read the content that is always updated.hanks!I am interested in reading more of your stuff flat stomach exercises

  2. Thank you so much for commenting. Stay tuned for more tips on plateau busting-include ab training :) But for now, remember that no amount of "ab" training will give you a flat stomach if your diet isn't clean. More on this soon...