If you are having a tough time putting on muscle, it’s time to get strategic. The answer may be the exact opposite of what you expect. Here are four counter-intuitive ways to bust through your body-building plateau:
1. Get strategic.
Elite athletes and bodybuilders utilize a concept known as “periodization.” If you are having trouble building muscle, adopting this approach may be the ticket. Periodization involves a phased approach to training that emphasizes specific goals at specific times of the year. You don’t have to be an exercise scientist to benefit from this. Try dedicating one month at a time to these specific goals in this order, culminating with a phase focused on building you up:
Month 1: Weak Point Training – target muscle groups that are lacking, and address muscular imbalances
Month 2: Functional Training – incorporate agility training and complex “skill” movements that will develop your mind-muscle connections
Month 3: Strength Training – focus only on improving strength in the bench press, squat and deadlift – use heavy weights for 3-5 repetitions in each session
Month 4: Hypertrophy Training (Muscle Growth) – focus on 1-2 body parts each day of the week, utilizing moderate weights for sets of 8-12 repetitions.
2. Slow down.
Another common mistake novice bodybuilders make is not spending enough “time under tension.” Without taxing the muscles with prolonged periods of stimulation, your muscles will not grow. You can increase time under tension by slowing down your repetitions on every set. Each repetition should take 3 seconds on the “down” phase (eccentric contraction) and 3 seconds on the “up” phase (concentric contraction).
3. Take the day off.
If you are a “hard gainer,” you probably require more rest days than your buddy that is naturally built like the Hulk. For a period of 4-6 weeks, build your training schedule around 4 days of training and 3 days of rest. After the 4-6 week period, measure your progress to determine the optimal number of day’s rest your body needs for growth.
4. Stop doing cardio.
While cardiovascular exercise can be a great way to stay lean, it can also hamper your muscle growth. Cut out any type of cardio – running, biking, etc. – for 4-6 weeks. Once again, measure your progress to determine if conserving your energy for weight training is a more effective strategy for putting on weight.
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Scott Hogan, Certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach (A.C.E.), blogs about nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle factors that contribute to peak performance. As the Category Manager of Sports & Fitness, Scott manages the merchandising and marketing of Sports Nutrition products at Vitacost.com. Follow Scott on Twitter @VitaScott, or connect directly through email at email@example.com.