Methods for Overcoming Physical Plateaus

//Methods for Overcoming Physical Plateaus

Methods for Overcoming Physical Plateaus

Every athlete and fitness enthusiast will undoubtedly encounter a “sticking point” at some point in their career. The sticking point, or plateau, is when an athlete is stuck at a particular training or competition number or weight. For example, an athlete can’t get over a 150kg back squat or they can’t break the 10.0s barrier in the 100m dash. To the athlete, it will become seemingly impossible to ever reach a score or weight beyond the number they are currently achieving. This has the potential to create multiple problems: loss of form, loss of interest, decrease in motivation, unnecessary or premature reliance on anabolic substances, an endless search for plausible ergogenic aids, injury or even the end of one’s sporting career.

The following are some methods that Mel Siff, PhD lists in his book, Supertraining, that could be beneficial the next time you’re going for a max or near-max attempt:

  1. Attempt to increase the number of repetitions with near maximal loads. For example, try to increase a 2 Rep Max (RM) to a 3RM or a 3RM to a 5RM.
  2. Increase loads by unfamiliar increments. Sticking points often relate to the numerical value of the load that associates with one’s current 1RM. For example, if you are trying to increase your 1RM of 100kg via succession of sets of 80-90-95-100kg, the sequence could be changed to sets of 80-92.5-97.5-102.5kg.
  3. Add minimal weights increments near your attempts with your 1RM. Very light weights (0.5-1.0kg) will be virtually unnoticeable. You should simply continue to train as if the small increment was not there.
  4. Alter or improve technique in problematic exercises. Sometimes the plateau is due to imperfect technique. A skilled coach’s eye or video analysis can facilitate necessary changes.

These are just a few methods provided by Siff, PhD, that can be implemented the day of training and don’t require a lot of preparation. If you’re stuck on a certain rep max, try one of these next time you go for a personal best. It could be the difference between matching your personal best and creating an all-time personal best.

Siff, Mel, PhD. (2003). Supertraining (6th Ed.). Denver. Supertraining Institute.

John Grace

John Grace

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John Grace


Head Fitness Coach for the Orlando Pride. I tweet about all things sport science, coaching, training, and athlete development.
@miggy__5 2. If full ROM isn't possible, I may use exercises with as much ROM as allowable with little/no pain and… - 1 week ago
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