How to Break Through a Bodybuilding Training Plateau

Every bodybuilder will reach a plateau in his or her training routine; which basically means that progress with any given exercise or even the whole routine will stagnate as your body becomes accustomed to the exercises and no longer responds.

Disillusioned bodybuilder frustrated with his training progress

It is important to recognise the signs and take action to prevent the trainer from losing strength and ultimately motivation. An indication would be when you reach a certain weight for a set/rep routine and then stall, or even regress the following week or two.

There are many ways of breaking through a plateau some of which are detailed as follows:

If one particular exercise needs attention, such as the bench press, it may be necessary to change the set/rep routine. For example, the trainer is stuck on 100 kg for 3 x 5 reps, so I would suggest either using higher reps 3 x 8/10 or lower reps 6 x 2 and then reverting back when you reach the next plateau.

Another approach is to look at the movement in terms of the muscle groups which are involved and concentrate on bringing up the strength of the lagging muscle. Again taking the bench press for example, it could be a motivation shoulders or triceps that is halting progress so in this instance I would be looking to put some more emphasis on that particular muscle group.

Sometimes a well earned rest can do wonders for busting through a plateau. Take a week off to let your body recuperate every 10-12 weeks and come back stronger and more motivated.

In my experience, as I train for hypertrophy over strength it is more important to change the exercise rather than concentrate on increasing strength with one movement. For example, changing from perhaps using a barbell to dumbbells, and keep the existing set/rep routine.

One approach that I am using at the minute which seems to be working very well is to train opposing muscle groups; for example my current routine is set up like this:

  • Day 1 – Back and Triceps
  • Day 2 – Chest and Biceps
  • Day 3 – Legs and Shoulders

Using this routine I have broken through plateaus that I had reached with several muscle groups and in time when my progress comes to a halt in the future I will go back to training similar muscle groups (back with biceps, etc).

My point is that there are many ways of achieving the most out of your training but the key is to recognise when something isn’t working and do something about it – remember just because something works for Ronnie Coleman doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you.

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