How to Prevent Muscle Adaptations and Lifting Plateaus

Step-by-step Instructions

Here is what you need to do...
Step 1

One of the biggest reasons people face lifting plateaus and muscle adaptations, they get into a specific routine that they do every time in the gym. It is the same process every week. Since this happens, the muscles know exactly what is coming every day/every week and do not ever get challenged anymore. The muscles have to be challenged to make gains and to grow.

Step 2

Therefore, the first and easiest step to eliminate muscle adaptations and plateaus is to change your routine. If you are always doing 3 sets of 5 reps for bench press, your body knows that. So, for one week, do 4 sets of 10 reps but drop the weight a little bit. Then the following week, do 4 sets of 2-3 reps but increase the weight more than the original weight. Varying the weight and rep range challenges the muscles and keeps them guessing. Resulting in more gains than before and no plateaus. This technique can be done for any body part and any main lifts.

Step 3

Another reason people stop seeing gains and changes in the weight room is because they start talking in between sets and during the workouts. This slows the tempo of the workout down and gives the muscles more time to rest, leading to an easier workout. We do not want easy. To fix this, all you need is a watch or a stopwatch. In between sets, you should not only rest for 45-75 seconds, depending on the lifts. If you are doing a main lift, only rest for 75 seconds between sets. Auxiliary lifts do not need as much rest time, so 45-60 seconds is sufficient. Limiting the rest time, makes the muscles work harder every set that is done, and challenges them to complete every rep necessary. The worst thing you could do is take a long time between sets, you might as well just stop the workout there.

Step 4

Another change that will be necessary to prevent muscle adaptations is to change what kind of workouts you do. If every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday you do upper body workouts, and every Tuesday and Thursday you do lower body, that needs to change. Instead of doing upper body three times a week, try breaking down the entire week and doing specific body parts each day. For example; on Mondays do chest/back, Tuesdays do legs/shoulders, and Wednesday do biceps/triceps. This is just an example. Doing this keeps the body guessing, which challenges the body in the long run and stops muscles from adapting to the typical routine.

Step 5

The last technique, and most popular for serious weight lifters, is doing specific exercises to break out of plateaus. For instance, if someone is stuck in a plateau for bench press, people will add additional bench specific exercises just to break out of their respective plateau.

Step 6

So for this, you can add a certain amount of weight that you can do for 10+ reps to the bar. But then add resistance bands as well. How you do this is simply attaching one side to the end of the barbell, then run the band under the bench and attach it to the other side. This will make it harder for the person to lift the bar from the chest to the top of the lift, and make it easier coming down which is okay. The person should only be able to do 5-6 reps, and this really focuses on the top half of the lift. Resistance bands can be used for a lot of lifts. Their goal is to make is easier for half of the lift, and harder for the other half of the lift which challenges the muscles. That is what we want!

Step 7

Another popular technique among serious weight lifters is a technique that used "negative" reps. This technique requires a spotter at all times. Say you can squat 225lbs one time. The goal for this technique is to add more weight than you can do by yourself, but the spotter is there to assist you in completing the lift. Doing this gets the body used to the heavier weight, and in a couple of weeks you will be strong enough to do it by yourself.

Step 8

How the "negative" reps are done. Find your one rep max. In this case lets say it is 225lbs. Towards the end of your workout, add 10-20 more pounds to the bar than your used to. Remember, always have a spotter. The goal is to do one rep by yourself, but it probably wont happen. Make sure the spotter ONLY assists you enough to get one rep. They shouldnt make it too easy for you, they should only take enough to push you.

Special Attention

Difficulties people often experience or parts that need special attention to do it right.

A lot of people don't want to challenge themselves enough to prevent adaptations and plateaus. If you want to prevent these, you have to challenge the body in new ways every couple of weeks. The body adapts quickly, so always keep it guessing. If you are doing heavy weight when you lift, remember to always use proper technique and always have a spotter there to assist you.

Stuff You'll Need

Suggested Further Reading

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This Student Author's Background

Funny or interesting story about this topic...

Last January I was in a serious plateau for my bench press. I had been stuck at the same max out weight for a 4 months, and it really started to make me mad. I would try and try to lift more weight, but it would never happen. Finally, I was able to break through once again.

When did you first do this & how did you get started?

I first started experiencing plateaus/adaptations about 18 months ago. I was about 6 months into lifting seriously, and my body finally started to slow down and not make gains like it had been doing the previous 6 months. I knew something was wrong, but I wasn't sure. So then I started looking around on the internet and found some good information to defeat this monster.

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