In our quest to become leaner and stronger, we hit plateaus. Weeks or months go by and there is no progress……you are still stuck on the same number of sets and reps.
This can be frustrating, especially when you have been making easy gains in the past. The thing is, it is easy to make gains in the first few months of strength training. But there may come a time when the gains slow down or stall.
Plateaus, mostly occur when the body adapts to training or diet, sometimes both. Therefore, you need to make changes in your training methods.
In this article, I will discuss how you can break through any bodyweight training plateau. Whether you are stuck on 8 pull ups or 15 push ups, these tips will work. In fact, some of these tips will work for weight trainees as well.
Let’s dive right in – tips on how to overcome a bodyweight training plateau.
To increase strength, do exercises correctly and increase range of motion.
Full range of motion reps put extra stress on the muscles. This will strengthen the muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Chances are, if you do each rep properly and full range of motion, you will gain more strength.
When doing pull ups lift your body until the chin is above the bar, and then lower it until you lock elbows. Do the same for all other exercises.
It is important you master an exercise before you progress. So do exercises within your strength level, harder exercises will compromise form.
For some exercises, full range of motion can cause injury. When doing dips or bench dips, go as deep as you feel comfortable.
To be sure you are doing an exercise properly, have someone observe your form or record yourself.
Do reps until failure
For muscle to grow, they have to be stressed and fatigued. Doing each set to failure will put the needed stress.
This means, if you can only do 10 full range of motion push ups, don’t stop there. Continue doing half push ups then quarter push ups until you can’t push any more. This will help build both physical and mental strength.
There a few bodyweight exercises that shouldn’t be done until failure. Exercises like, handstand push ups, dips and any other exercise that pose injury risk. But most basic bodyweight exercises are safe.
Note that you should only start doing the half reps after you can’t do full range of motion anymore.
Increase intensity and explosiveness
This will help activate the muscle fibers more and strengthen the joints.
Increase the speed at which you are doing the exercises. But observe form, when training at high intensity, form can be easily compromised without knowing.
Doing explosive exercises is also effective for breaking plateaus. Clap push ups, step ups, jump squats, box jumps and burpees will make a great addition to your routine.
Check your nutrition
Proper nutrition is key to increasing muscle and strength. You have to eat enough healthy foods to fuel the muscles.
Eat balanced meals with enough proteins, good carbs and healthy fats. Eating low calorie meals can hinder strength gains.
It won’t be possible to progress if you have burned out mindset and lack motivation. Sometimes the problem is not strength but the mindset.
You have to be willing to push yourself. Building strength doesn’t come easy. You have to give it your all.
Learn to listen to your body rather than the brain, most of the time trainees give up before the muscles are exhausted. So find motivation and give each set your all.
Rearrange the exercises
Doing this will make a huge difference. Maybe your current order of exercises is getting you fatigued quickly.
There is no particular order for exercises in any workout. Try different combinations and settle with the one which works best for you.
One effective approach is to start your workout with the most challenging exercises then finish with the easy ones. Easier exercises require less strength. For example, pull ups first then push ups later.
Change exercise variations
To break a plateau, the body has to get out of its comfort zone. Different variations will strengthen muscles that you weren’t activating before.
Wide grip push ups target the shoulder more while close grip push ups target the triceps. Combining both will definitely increase your strength and push ups reps. Changing hand grip or stance variation may just what you need to increase strength.
Tightening your grip on pull exercises also activates the muscles more. When doing, inverted rows or pull ups, keep your grip as tight as possible.
You may also add new exercises to your workout. If you know your weaker muscles, find exercises that will strengthen those muscles and add them to your regimen.
Do assisted unilateral exercises
One arm or one leg exercises are more effective in building strength. They are also difficult to execute. That’s why you’ll need to start with assisted reps. Jumping straight to one arm push ups or pistol squat might cause injury.
After two or three weeks of doing assisted unilateral exercises, your strength will increase and you will be able to do more reps.
Don’t advance to harder exercises before you build strength with the simple ones. You should only advance to harder variations or different exercises after you can do at least 10-15 reps, of full range of motion. Doing unilateral exercises with weak joints is a recipe for injury.
Do weighted reps
Wearing a backpack or weight vest when doing reps is also another great way to break through a plateau.
Adding weights to your exercises will put more stress on the muscles (which is good). But you have to progress gradually. Adding too much weight quickly might cause an injury. Start 5-10 pounds then maybe add more weight later as you get stronger.
In case you don’t have a weight vest, using a backpack loaded with books will work.
To make progress, you have to keep making adjustments in your workouts. Surprise the body with new movements in order to break a plateau.
Don’t be frustrated when strength and muscle growth stalls. Change things, put more effort and you’ll start seeing gains.
Have you ever hit a bodyweight plateau? How did you break through it?
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