4 Ways To Fix Fitness Plateaus and Bust Through Gym Barriers


What else would you call it when you stop moving forwards and you don’t know where to go next? Also like hitting a dead-end, it can make you face the ugly fact that you now have to backtrack in the hopes of finding a better route.

Understanding a fitness plateau is really just a fancy word for a dead-end and it brings new light into how to handle the situation. If a dead-end really is what you’ve hit then all you need to do is bust down a few walls! Below are 4 of the most common reasons why you may have hit a fitness dead-end.

Reason #1 – You’ve Maxed Out Your Capacity for Stress
A lot of diet and exercise theory is based on the idea that stress is the magic ingredient that causes the changes we want to see. Unfortunately, this can set up the idea that a healthy diet or exercise routine is all about seeing how much stress you can withstand before you either break or just quit. Couple this with the fact that our capacity for physical stress decreases with age and you have a sure-fire situation for creating a fitness plateau.

I propose a shift in thinking. Instead of seeking stress as the catalyst for change, see it as more of a side effect of training. With this perspective, the results are a product of the quality of smart training and education as opposed to just seeing how much punishment you can take. Improving things like technique and program design can help you use that stress rather than abuse it.

Reason #2 – You’ve Maxed Out Your Lifestyle Resources
Getting in shape is an expensive journey. It costs you time, money, energy, discipline and a host of other resources that are in high demand by other things in your life. Many plateaus are the result of running out of lifestyle resources. You simply don’t have more time, money, or energy to spend in advancing your results.

fitness-plateaus-busterWhile many might suggest making more sacrifices in lifestyle, I suggest going with methods that are more efficient. Look for strategies that use less time and energy. A simple home gym or an efficient workout plan can help free up lifestyle resources giving you more potential to advance your results.

Reason #3 – Following Very Limited Diet and Exercise Rules
Many plateaus are created from a narrow range of thinking. Programs built upon only one or two rules can create beneficial, but very limited results. Examples might include basing a diet on excluding a couple of ingredients like sugar, processed food, conventionally grown and so on. Exercise examples might include only working out within certain parameters like a specific set and rep program or routine.

The issue with following a narrow selection of rules is that you can only go as far as fulfilling that rule. If you remove all processed food from your diet, where do you go from there? If you always believe in lifting 3 sets of 10 reps, where do you go once you’ve mastered that method?

Even the most effective rule can only bring you so far. Once you’ve fulfilled that rule, or set of rules to the best of your abilities, your progress stops. The key is to think outside of the narrow scope of those rules. Know that there’s more to a healthy diet than avoiding a few choice foods or ingredients. The human body was designed to be strong and capable in a whole host of ways. Adopting a few new ideas can bring in some new ways to climb around the limitations of a few select fitness rules.

Reason #4 – Lack of Progressive Knowledge
They say the more you know, the more you grow and that’s certainly the case with fitness. Many times, a plateau is simply when we run against the limits of our knowledge and understanding.

But you can’t just go out and learn a bunch of new things and expect better results. Knowledge may be power, but it’s only powerful to you if it progresses what you already know. It’s vitally important that the new information you learn supports the goals you want to achieve. Just like anything else in fitness, learning new information costs you lifestyle resources, so be picky about what you’re learning rather than just throwing time and money at the problem.

It’s a firm belief of mine that fitness plateaus are not at all necessary. They are not something you have to put up with on the road to success. There’s always another step forward you can take. They key is keeping your mind open to the possibilities so you can identify them.

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About Author

Matt Schifferle

My name is Matt Schifferle and I'm an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 coach, underground strength coach and I'm a 5th degree black belt in Taekwon-Do. I specialize in outdoor and playground based underground and CrossFit style bootcamps. See my profile page for more information!

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