5 Ways to Keep Progressing and Avoid Training Plateaus

 In Sport Performance, Uncategorized, Wil
Training had been going well for you, but recently your numbers in the weight room haven’t been going up or they are even going down. You’re feeling sluggish when trying to work on your speed and generally you don’t want to spend your time training today.

You’ve hit a plateau.

In fact you are actually overtrained.  Overtraining syndrome is a real thing that faces many top athletes at the highest levels of athletics.  Overtraining syndrome has many symptoms or signs,  among them:

  • Tired, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness.
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Lack of performance gains
  • Inability to sleep
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Increased incidence of injuries.

These symptoms of overtraining syndrome are often called a training plateau and can seriously affect your performance in a negative way.  For athletes overtraining can seriously take your performance down, or in many cases be the beginning of an injury.
So how do you avoid these drastic drops in training performance?
Plan Ahead

Any good training plan should include periods of rest. Athletes want to train the entire year, it is in your DNA to try to do what others won’t or can’t, but it will negatively affect your performance.

Get this guy out and start planning!
If you don’t plan ahead, you are likely to let your emotions get the best of you and hit the gym right away for your first training session after the season. Likely you are doing this before your body is ready to do so and risking hindering your training for the entire upcoming year.
So plan ahead and include at least a couple weeks of recovery right after the season.  This time is especially important to let your body heal and get ready for the next season.  This is the beginning of what is called a transition period and allows you to recharge. The second part of a transition period may have other activities called active rest, that can include different training styles, or exercises (just make sure you aren’t doing some activity that you are completely unaccustomed to, you could get hurt)
Plan to include a transition period after the season and you can plan for great results the entire year.
Regress your training

Regression during training means to back a movement down  a level, or make it slightly easier for a short period of time to let your body recover without an interruption in training.  For my athletes I  regress the training every 3-4 weeks during their training cycle for 1 week. There are many ways to regress.
Both in the exercises you are doing and in the set up of a current training cycle you can have regression that will lead to PROGRESSION in the future.
For exercise selection you can do several things to regress training. Among them:
-Go from Dynamic exercise to Static exercise i.e if your core training is normally about movement, change it up to isometric holds, like planks or bridge holds.

-Weighted exercise to Bodyweight exercise i.e. change your bench presses to push ups for a week to recharge.

-Smaller base of support on the exercise to larger base of support for an exercise i.e. Go from normal squats to a split squat, making the exercise target different areas and challenge you to stabilize rather than purely on strength.

To regress an overall plan consider the following

-Decrease the volume of training during a week. That is the total pounds lifted in a week.

-Decrease intensity of training during a week. In this case don’t go up to high weights for low reps or near maximal loads.

-Decrease the number of training sessions. Instead of training 3-4 days a week, train 2 days a week.

Change your Training Focus

This goes along with the previous way to avoid overtraining but is important and needs to be said.  Change up the focus of your training at different times of the year. If you focus solely on strength, or focus only on gaining more muscle mass, your body will become accustomed to the training and adapt. This will not allow you to keep making gains, getting faster, and stronger and will instead stall your training.
Focus on conditioning for 3-4 weeks, then on muscle endurance, strength, power etc. Make sure to add pieces of all these training focuses to each period of your training so that you can retain these qualities as you go forward. You don’t want to be super strong but not be able to make it through a whole game!
By changing the focus of training every 4-6 weeks you will find yourself refreshed and looking forward to the next phase of your development.

This guy might have focused a little too much on his biceps.

Foam Rolling: Cheap massage.
When trying to get stronger and faster, the body must needs to be taken care of.  To make sure that athletes recover and remain healthy I have all my athletes do foam rolling and stretching in each session.
Foam rolling is essentially a form of self myofascial release or self massage where you can help to break down scar tissue and adhesions that are developed through training and being an athlete. Scar tissue and adhesions inhibit the muscle from performing at their highest levels.
Major muscle groups like the quadriceps, hamstrings, pectoralis major can be rolled but make sure to include areas like the thoracic spine, and iliotibial band where connective tissue can develop adhesions and scar tissue that needs to be broken up.
Keep in mind that this will not help overnight, but foam rolling before every training session should keep you from becoming overtrained in the future.
Get more Sleep!
This is the most important of all the tips to keep you from being overtrained.  GET MORE SLEEP. It really can be that simple.  During sleep your body does the majority of its recovery work.  Your muscles are able to repair and get prepared for the next day’s training.
If you are getting less than 8 hours of sleep a night then you are going to hit a plateau sooner rather than later.
Plan some time off, regress your training, change your training focus and get more sleep. Follow those simple steps and you will have no problem avoiding the dreaded plateaus that can come with training to be a great athlete.
Outside of making you get more sleep, the right training program, from the right coaches will help to make sure that you do not hit plateaus or be overtrained.  In Indiana, the right training program is at Force Fitness and Performance.  Give us a call 812 822 0636 or email me directly at wil@beforcefit.com

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  • Jeff Coover

    Hey Wil,

    Im glad to see you post on this, and can attest to the benefits of schedule rest. I am in a sport that has the potential for a competitive season lasting 8-9 months straight, with meets nearly every weekend. Taking planned breaks in competing between indoor and outdoor track and field, as well as down time after major championships is hugely important. Thanks for the post, and I hope people realize how helpful this is!

    Jeff Coover

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