If nothing about your current life-style changes, how can you expect changes to happen to your health and body?
When someone first starts out on a "life-style change", they'll almost always see immediate results because any change, big or small, to their current lifestyle will have an effect on their body.
But what about those of us who have been going at this "life-style change" for months... even years? Finding more and more things to change gets to be a little difficult and sooner or later, you'll hit a plateau. I'm not just talking about a weight-loss plateau, but a plateau in any area of your health and fitness journey (ex. strength, endurance, body fat, etc.).
Here are my tips on preventing/breaking through a plateau using exercise.
- Change up which machine you use - Most people tend to stick to one type of cardio machine but by switching it up, your body now has to get used to using different muscles to get you the same cardio effect. On the other hand, if you switch machines daily, you may want to think about switching machines weekly, even monthly, instead. Although there's nothing wrong with cross-training, because your body is comfortable with ALL the cardio machines at once, it's hard to change it up if you needed to.
- Change up the resistance or level of the machine - Always doing level 5? Jump up the resistance to level 8 every two minutes, then throw it down to level 3... then up to level 12.
- Try an exercise class - It's amazing what a class-environment can do for motivation and boredom!
- Try swimming - it's a completely different type of of cardio workout
- Incorporate high intensity interval training (HIIT) - I wish I could get EVERYONE doing interval training. A lot of experts say that intervals are for more conditioned exercises but I think that's BS. Of course, I don't suggest that someone who's just started out do walking/sprinting intervals, but a beginner can easily alternate between walking and power walking. That still gets your heart rate up/down.
- Like the first tip under "Cardio" change up which machines you use - There are TONS of machines that work the same muscle group, so switch it up once in a while.
- Change up your rep/set scheme - Always do 3 sets of 12 reps? Change it up to 4 sets of 10. Of course, this can only change so much depending on what your goal is at the time (bodybuilding vs. power vs. strength vs. endurance, etc.).
- Focus on all three muscle actions: concentric, isometric, and eccentric - Mose people concentrate on the concentric part of a movement, where you muscle is shortening to move the weight. For example, the upward motion of a bicep curl. But by focusing on the isometric (holding the weight at the 90 degree angle in a bicep curl) or the eccentric (the downward/lowering part of a bicep curl; also called negatives) movement, the muscles get worked in an entirely different way. Yes, it's the same motion, but you recruit different muscle fibers in each action.
Basically, switching up the frequency, intensity, duration or type of exercise should help move you past a plateau.