Become your Best Self: 5 Ways to Smash through Training Plateaus

Hitting plateaus and watching your progress grind to a halt can be incredibly frustrating. Here is how to break through these inevitable hurdles to your athletic success and continue to become your best self.

1. USE ACCESSORY EXERCISES TO SUPPORT MAJOR LIFTS AND MOVEMENTS

Accessory exercises are the perfect supplement to major compound lifts and common exercises. They force your body to adapt to a less familiar stimulus, and grow and develop as a result…

Cocoons, Russian Twists and Situps (all with plates) will strengthen your core and significantly help you to control weights through the full range of motion during other exercises. Stronger rectus abdominis, obliques, intercostals and serratus muscles will improve your stability, lifts and reduce the risk of injury during training.

Weighted Dips are perfect for developing your upper body strength, especially in your lower chest, shoulders and triceps. As an accessory exercise, they will also have a direct and positive impact on your ring and bar Muscle Ups as well.

Weighted Pull Ups are a simple and highly functional movement. Keep these strict and complete the full range of motion by ending each rep with a dead hang pause for a second. This will force your traps, delts, teres major and minor and arms to work hard and not rely on any kind of momentum to power the movement.

Sumo Pulls are an excellent way to build explosive power. Snatch Pulls can also be effective in helping you to improve your ability to generate speed and force in specific parts of the general range of motion for the full Snatch lift.

2. GET BACK TO BASICS: RELEARN AND IMPROVE

Breaking an exercise down and attacking it from the bottom up is an excellent way to improve the general form and efficiency of your technique. Try getting back to the basics and examine the way you move and lift in detail.

deadlift by male athlete breaking through training plateaus
Become your strongest self

Filming your workouts and lifts is a perfect way to be objective about your technique. It is important to remember a simple truth about exercises in functional fitness:  we can always improve our technique.

Take a look at top Olympic weightlifters for example. They dedicate their entire lives to performing two lifts, the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. All their accessory work, mobility, stretching and training is done to support these exercises. Years of work and hours in the gym is dedicated to a series of short moments when they perform these exercises in front of the cameras, judges and crowds during competitions.

Stripping your technique back down to zero and re-analysing everything can be a huge shock to the ego! Carrying out an honest reassessment of all aspects of an exercise, from your feet position right through to the bar path, highlights previously unseen problems. By accepting these issues, fixing them and moving forward, you will develop a training attitude that constantly supports personal success and development. This is an excellent mentality for accepting that training plateaus will occur, but that you are strong-willed enough to smash through them.

3. ANALYSE AND IMPROVE YOUR FLEXIBILITY AND MOVEMENT PATTERNS

Analysing your own movement patterns to see where you can become more efficient is a great way to improve. Additionally, finish your sessions with regular flexibility work. This will help you to achieve maximum range of motion more easily during exercises within your workouts. Freeletics Gym provides full-body stretching and mobility routines to undertake before and at the end of your workouts.

freeletics athletes smashing training plateaus with barbell rows
Analyse your form and movement

Slow the movement right down

This technique is a great way to identify weaknesses and find positions that are difficult due to personal physiology or areas of flexibility that need to be improved. Try the following exercise:

  • Perform a Pistol Squat in super slow motion.
  • Take 10 seconds to lower yourself and 10 to rise back up again.
  • Do this on both legs.

If you can complete this successfully then you have a decent range of motion. Use this exercise to show to yourself which points during the movement feel the hardest to control and balance. Any problems are much more likely to be caused from a lack of mobility, rather than insufficient strength, and can be remedied through working on ankle and hip flexibility.

4. SMASH TRAINING PLATEAUS: CONCENTRATE ON THE OVERALL PROCESS

Take time to focus on the long term goals and concentrate on enjoying your training, instead of fixating on a single lift or time.

If you have hit a plateau for a certain lift, say a Squat Clean or Strict Press, then put it out of your mind for a month or longer and continue training. Use accessory exercises to supplement your development and take on workouts that will strengthen your abilities in the relevant areas. A conditioning workout such as NANNA from Freeletics Gym is a strong example of this practice in effect, as it targets similar movements to the lifts that you are looking to progress in.

NANNA

  • 4 rounds for time
  • 10 Push Press
  • 10 Front Squat
  • 10 Bent Over Rows

When you return to testing your 1 rep max, you may be surprised at how well you manage to smash the ceiling that you were previously struggling to break through.

It is important to have goals, but it is even more important to understand them in the wider context of your overall training. Consistency is the key.

5. DON’T STICK TO YOUR STRENGTHS

It is human nature to want to stick to our strengths. We are all naturally better at certain exercises than others. Our athletic backgrounds also play a role in determining what we are more or less pre-determined to succeed at. An athlete that comes from a triathlon background will most likely favour longer, more endurance-based workouts in functional fitness and need to dedicate more time to weightlifting, strength and power in their training. Another individual with a powerlifting background may find that the opposite is the case for them.

freeletics athletes working out in gym
Full effort is full victory

When you start hitting the natural plateaus of your strength, cardiovascular ability or other physiological limits, personalising your training will help you to attack and break through them in the most intelligent way possible.

With Freeletics Gym you can choose to have your training programmed for you based on the specific goals you want to achieve. The full body training programme is broad enough to ensure that no single area of your fitness is overlooked, yet focused enough to target personalised goals through the workouts and sessions. It helps you to implement all the points in this article, break through training plateaus and take you beyond your current training horizons.

Take the following conditioning workout for example. It will burn fat, build strength and develop power and resilience in your lower body. Overall you will complete 300 reps and, when performed with intensity, it becomes a grueling test of your physical and mental capabilities. This workout will also indirectly help you to improve your Squat and Deadlift as well.

SOL

  • 5 rounds for time
  • Reps of each exercise per round (20/16/12/8/4)
  • 20 Lunges
  • 20 Deadlifts
  • 20 Front Squats

Ask yourself why do you train? Is it because you want to develop strength and conditioning, endurance, challenge yourself, lose weight, feel healthier, look better or simply because you enjoy it? For any one (or combination) of these reasons, the points in this article will help you to improve and develop as an athlete, and to move past any training plateaus that may hold you back!

Improve my training now.


deadlift by male athlete breaking through training plateaus © Freeletics

freeletics athletes smashing training plateaus with barbell rows © Freeletics

freeletics athletes working out in gym © Freeletics

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About The Author

Editor-In-Chief at BOXROX. I come from a background of rugby and weightlifting. Growing up in the English Lake District, I spent a great deal of time swimming in its stunning lakes and rivers. In 2015 my brothers and I became the first people to swim the 145km length of the River Eden, from source to mouth, in 9 days. We also swam the Corryvreckan whirlpool, the third largest in the world, and Crossfit is a huge part of my training for these events.

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