By Leigh Ann Thomas, Certified Personal Trainer

Your new diet and exercise plan has you dropping weight fast, you’re fitting into your skinny jeans again, you’re noticing muscle definition, and you’re energy is through the roof - until one day it stops. At first, you may not notice it, but after time goes by, you may start realizing your weight has become stagnant, your mile isn’t improving, and you’ve been lifting for weeks without any noticeable gains. You’ve stalled. You’ve hit a wall. You’ve been doing the exact workout that helped you lose all the weight in the beginning and now…nothing. Sound familiar? You’ve hit a training plateau. Eventually, everyone encounters this phase in their training where their strength gains, weight loss or overall performance has ceased to improve. It’s frustrating and disappointing, but there is a way to move past it.

What Causes a Training Plateau?

A plateau is a phase in your training where you’re simply not progressing in your workouts. This could be due to a number of reasons, such as over-training, under-training, diet, lack of supplementation, lack of sleep, or not following a strategic workout program. Moreover, your body has adapted to the stress of your workouts, which means you’re no longer being challenged, therefore you’re not growing.

The good news is that the body responds to change in the most favorable way. Just the smallest tweaks in your program may make a world of difference.  Here, I’ve listed 4 effective ways to break through a plateau, or if you haven’t experienced one yet, you can prevent a plateau from happening in the future.

4 Ways to Break Through Any Weight Loss Plateau 

1. Add Progressions to Your Exercises   

Before you change everything in your program, start slowly by only modifying 2-3 things at a time. Small changes can make a big difference and your body will respond, as opposed to changing everything at once. For example, changing a variable such as the amount of reps and weight you use, rest time, plane of motion or equipment is a great start. Remember to perform at least 2 workouts where you’re executing these progressions before adding any new modifications, so you can track your progress. Here are some ideas:

  • Cardio

Wear a weighted vest– Carrying the extra load requires more energy per step, which also strengthens your legs and abdominals to support your posture.

Bump up the incline – Increasing the incline challenges your endurance, which strengthens your heart, lungs, hamstrings and glutes. You will definitely notice progress the next time you walk or run on a flat surface.

Perform Intervals – Run on a flat (1%) surface, and then bump up the incline to 4% and run for 5 minutes and lower the incline back to 1%. Alternate every 5 minutes. This will greatly challenge your body to run at a pace it’s not used to, strengthening your legs, glutes and lungs. Decrease the speed and pace if needed when running at the increased incline to compensate for difficulty. You may also shorten your intervals by adding HIIT to your cardio routine, such as 20 second sprints followed by 40 seconds walk/recovery. Perform your interval training for 20-30 minutes, at least 3x a week for the best results. 

  • Weight Training

Change up your reps - Include rep variables such as pyramids, supersets or change up your rep range completely!  Choose one or two exercises and perform one of these methods to stimulate new growth and muscle tissue. In basic terms, instead of doing 3 straight sets of 12 over and over, perform 4 sets of 10 or 3 sets of 8. This will allow you to go heavier and develop that muscle even faster.

Switch up your equipment -You can also switch up the equipment you use to add variety to your workouts, such as using dumbbells instead of a barbell or a machine. Dumbbells will strengthen any weaknesses due to muscle imbalances from relying on machines or barbells. Another example would be to do a variety of push-ups on multiple planes, such as a decline push-up or incline push-up, as opposed to a bench press with a barbell or machine. Consider pull-ups as opposed to lat pull-downs on a machine or add weight to your next set of ab exercises.

Add plyometrics (jumping exercises) – Add plyometrics or cardio to your routine in between sets. Design a superset to include a plyometric exercise following a strength exercise. For example, after you have completed a set of dead lifts, go right into jump squats. This will spike your heart rate and really challenge your body, expediting calorie expenditure, fat burn and muscle growth. (Think: toned, sculpted legs) Another example of this would be after doing walking lunges, go right into burpees. Again, the options are endless!

2. Track Everything

In the beginning, it’s exciting keeping track of your meals and workouts. It gives you this level of responsibility and achievement at the end of the day knowing that you met your calorie and macro goal. You’re even logging your workouts, writing down all your reps, weights and how you felt during each exercise with pride looking back at your hard work. Then week two rolls around and you start forgetting to log your meals and activity, it all becomes a lot to keep up with. As time goes on, without logging your meals or workouts, how can you truly hold yourself accountable or know if you’re progressing from week to week?

Keeping a log or diary is extremely important and beneficial for your success if you want to see growth in your program. Keeping a diary in the form of a notebook or on a mobile app, such as My Fitness Pal, is the only way to know how much you’re truly eating and if you’re meeting your macro goal. If you bite it, write it. Same goes for your workouts, log the weights you used and the amount of reps. Log any cardio you did, how you felt, log your heart rate, speed and time. Over time, you’ll begin to notice if you’re progressing and if you need to change things up.      

3. Supplement With Quality Vitamins

Supplementation is also an important factor that you must include into your daily regimen. Fueling your body with high quality vitamins and minerals will help support the demands of your workouts and bridge the gap in your diet. Even though exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health, it also creates a lot of stress and inflammation within the body, which people tend to disregard and think of as “normal.” Sore muscles and joint pain can be treated with vitamins, minerals and nutrition, as well as promote fat loss, recovery and growth.   

  • CLA – CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) supplements help to promote fat loss in addition to your diet and exercise efforts. Conjugated linoleic acid is a group of fatty acids that have been shown to improve body composition, shed fat and build lean muscle, fast.

  • Curcumin Ultimate – Heal your body from the inside out with this powerful antioxidant, Curcumin Ultimate. Fight inflammation, heal your gut, protect your immune system and promote faster recovery so you can get back to the gym in no time.
  • D-Ribose D-Ribose, one of the key components of ATP, the energy within the body, provides you with long-lasting energy that powers our hearts, muscles, brains, and every other tissue in the body. Fight fatigue to stay alert, focused and ready to tackle the day.
  • Collagen – This product should be a staple in your supplement regimen. Period. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body.  It’s in your skin, muscles, bones, cartilage and ligaments. So it goes without saying how important this protein is for keeping our body in optimal shape. As we age, our collagen production slows down significantly, which is why our skin sags, our joints ache, and we become more susceptible to injuries, such as broken bones and fractures.  You can supplement with collagen peptides or powder to your morning coffee, smoothies, or baked goods to add some extra protein and health benefits to start off your day.      

4. Check Your Hormones

If you have already done all of the above efforts and you still aren’t seeing a breakthrough in your plateau, you may be suffering from a hormone imbalance. Hormone deficiencies and imbalances such as low thyroid function, insulin resistance, or the changes that occur during menopause may cause you to hold onto excess weight and can negatively affect your metabolism. When suffering from a hormone deficiency, you may not always be able to put a finger on the exact issue, due to a host of symptoms that may attribute to the specific deficiency. If this is the case, speak with one of our wellness consultants to get you started on the right path to feeling like yourself again, the natural way, without the use of pharmaceutical drugs.

Remember, the idea is to have fun and constantly challenge your body. Try mixing in any of the above recommendations to shake up your routine, so you don’t find yourself in a rut later down the road. Seeing results in your appearance, as well as your physical strength, is such a rewarding feeling, especially when you’re working so hard to achieve your goals. If you have any tips or a question about fitness or weight loss, please comment below and I’ll be happy to answer your questions!