How to Increase Your Training Intensity to Break Through Plateaus


Have you been exercising consistently but still struggling to see results? Maybe you started seeing the scale drop and your muscles grow but then the progress came to a stop?

In order to continue seeing progress, you have to change some of the variables in your training. You see, your body is smart and adjusts to the same work load each and every time. This process is called progressive overload, and it's vital to preventing and overcoming training plateaus. 

There are so many creative ways to challenge yourself with your training. We’ll go over a few here:

Add weight.

Of course, this is probably the most obvious one but if you are able to increase the weight you’re using for the movement, this should be your next move for a new challenge! I tell my clients that for whatever prescribed number of reps I give them, they should pick a weight that they can successfully complete the reps and potentially two additional reps if they HAD to but no more than that with good form!

The goal should always be to push yourself as hard as you can! If you're using a weight that doesn't truly challenge your body, you're missing the opportunity to make changes as effectively as possible. 

Only increase the weight when you are confident that you can complete the whole set with proper form. You will find that you will be able to increase weight on your lower body movements with much greater frequency than upper body movements. For example, a 5 lb increase on your squat is going to feel a lot easier to manage than a 5 lb increase on your lat raises. You will eventually increase weight on your upper body movements. It just takes extra time! In between weight increases, you can use the below strategies to keep these workouts challenging. :) 

Add reps.

Use the weight you’re able to maintain good form with and add extra repetitions. Increasing your training volume leads to increased muscle growth because you're requiring your muscles to do more work under the same tension as the week before! 

Again, ensure that you're only increasing reps when you feel like you can maintain proper form. If you're using a weight that's truly too heavy for a certain muscle, you'll simply recruit other muscles to lift it and then you're missing out on the intended progress anyway. 

Increase time under tension

by slowing down the eccentric portion of the movement (the part that doesn’t contract the muscle) example- slow return to starting position of a lateral raise.

There are several benefits to slowing down your lift. The first, of course being, the added time under tension using the same weight as prior lifts is a new challenge. Slowing your lift down also helps improve your mind muscle connection. Mind muscle connection is essentially your ability to focus on the contraction of the muscle being worked. This leads to more efficient results because you're ensuring that the CORRECT muscle is being used and therefore, the correct muscle is growing!

Add drop sets. (demonstrated by Howcast)

Use your current weight until failure and then drop to a lower weight 1-2x. This allows you to add extra training volume. You're essentially exhausting the muscle by reaching failure at your heaviest weight and then continuing the movement at a weight your body can still handle.  

Add partial or pulse reps

Add partial or pulse reps to increase time under tension. For example. you could try barbell 21's or pulse squats. To perform 21's, you perform just the upper half of a bicep curl for 7 reps, then just the lower half for 7 reps, and then full curls for 7 reps. To perform pulse squats you lower yourself into a squat and then pulse quickly upward and back down. Then you return to the starting position. 

The purpose of partial reps is to keep tension on the muscle throughout the whole movement. Normally, when you return to the starting position, your muscle is getting a quick "break" from the tension. By taking out this return, your muscle never fully rests for the set. 

Pulse reps merely extend the amount of time under tension the way you would by slowing the reps down. 

Perform supersets.

You can further burn out the muscle by supersetting 2 exercises, meaning you perform 2 different movements one after the other.

There are several different ways to utilize this. One would be to superset two exercises for the same muscle group. For example, you could perform a bicep curl and then a hammer curl immediately after to burn out the muscle. 

Another technique would be to superset exercises that work opposing muscle groups. This keeps your heart rate up plus you get more done in a shorter amount of time! You could, for example, perform a bicep curl with a tricep overhead extension. 

Try an AMRAP circuit

Combine 4-5 exercises to be completed without rest. This will keep your heart rate up and boost your fat burn! Try to complete as many rounds as possible within a certain amount of time for an added challenge.

You can get a free circuit workout HERE.

Lift until failure (demonstrated by Layne Norton and

Perform your last set of an exercise with the same weight you've been using for previous sets but lift until you can no longer physically lift the weight with good form.

These are the strategies I apply most often to challenge my body week to week! Pushing yourself in new ways will keep your body from adapting and help you continue to make progress in muscle gain and weight loss!

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