Finally one day you decided to start building some muscles. You joined the gym, started dieting, you are completely dedicated and you did your best to make those gains. And also you were gaining appreciable muscle mass and everything was going just fine but unfortunately at a point all of a sudden your muscle gains stop. You still do workout, diet and rest all perfect but your muscles just won’t grow. This means you’ve hit a muscle-building plateau.
If you have hit a plateau, then you are in the right place. Don’t worry you are not the one. Almost every fitness enthusiast has experienced a plateau in his/her fitness journey.
This could be so frustrating if you are experiencing a plateau for the first time but keep in mind that hitting a plateau is super normal in bodybuilding.
Below is the complete guide you need to follow to break through the muscle-building plateau.
Amp up the calories.
Yes, you have built decent muscle size with the amount of food you eat and obviously you might be thinking that sticking to the same amount of food will make you grow more.
But unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. At the time you started, your body’s caloric requirements were different and now you have built muscles and hence gained some weight.
Those amounts of calories won’t work now. As you have gained muscles your body will need more calories to build more muscles.
Bigger the vehicle, More is the fuel required.
So you should consider increasing your calories a bit.
Easy steps to do this:
- I have written an easy guide to calculate how many calories you need to build muscles in an article. Read it here.
- After reading the guide you will be able to calculate the number of calories you need daily according to your weight, height, daily activity, etc. to build muscles.
- Follow this diet for 2-3 weeks. After gaining some muscles again calculate your new caloric intake for your new stats.
- And follow this intake until you feel that you are approaching a plateau and repeat.
Your body needs rest to build muscles.
The more muscles you have more rest your body will need to recover and grow bigger.
Sleep(rest) is the part where the actual muscle building process is done.
Heavyweight workouts cause small tears in the muscle fibers. Eating the right diet will provide nutrients to muscles to fill these tears and Sleep (rest) will heal those tears with the nutrients and will result in bigger and stronger muscle.
So less sleep might be the reason you hit a plateau. Try sleeping for 7-8hours every day.
Focus on hypertrophy.
You lifted heavy weights which made you gain muscles in the first place. Lifting those weights earlier was so challenging for your muscles in the beginning and they had no option but to grow to be able to lift that weight.
But now if you are still lifting the same weights, your muscles are already strong enough for this weight and they just won’t grow.
So try slowly increasing the lifting weights than your previous workouts.
I suggest keeping 12 reps as your target. Try hitting the heaviest weight with which you can do max 12 reps with proper form and range of motion. The moment you are able to lift the same weight for 15 reps, then go for the next heaviest weight.
Don’t let your muscles get bored.
You probably have a workout routine planned. This routine worked for you before, so you try your best to stick to this routine and you do the same chest exercises on every chest day, same leg exercises on every leg day, etc.
But your muscles are so smart. After some time your muscles are gonna get used to it. Every time you enter the gym your brain will tell your muscles what exercises are coming up and be prepared. This makes your muscles used to it.
So try introducing exercise variations after some specific interval of time ( after a month or 2). Now, this does not mean that you have to scribble your whole workout program into a new one. Just replace one or two exercises with some different variation and see what works best for you.
For eg: Replace barbell curls with dumbell curls or with cable curls, etc.
This change in a workout can also be done by re-ordering the sequence of the exercises.
Supersets will intensify your workouts and also it will save you time. Superset means doing 2 or 3 or maybe 4 exercises back to back with nearly no rest. Now, this can be done with 2 exercises of the same muscle group or 2 exercises of different muscle groups.
- Superset of inclined pec deck and dumbbell fly i.e. do a set of incline pec deck machine, then with no rest move to the bench and do the dumbbell flies. Take a few seconds of rest and repeat. This is an example of a superset for the same muscle group.
- Superset of Bicep curls and Tricep pushdown i.e. This is an example of a superset for different muscle groups.
You can couple almost any exercises together for the superset.
Add more compound lifts.
Most of the people avoid the top best heavy compound lifts in the gym. Maybe because these lifts are boring to do or these lifts are vulnerable to injury.
But Compound lifts like deadlifts, pull-ups, squats, etc are best plateau breakers.
You can go super heavy on these exercises(with proper form). These exercises engage 2 or more than 2 muscle groups, this the reason why these exercises are super effective for building muscles and hence for breaking the plateau.
Focus on doing Deadlifts and Squats once a week and Pull-ups and Push-ups twice a week.
Final say on breaking the muscle-building plateau.
- Re-calculate your diet (calories) after every 2 or 3 weeks.
- Make sure your body is getting enough rest.
- Do high-intensity weight training.
- Shock your muscles with different exercise variations.
- Add some supersets and drop sets in your workout routine.
- Do not avoid heavy compound lifts.