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Gym hack: How to overcome muscle plateau

Gym hack: How to overcome muscle plateau

An improper diet, lack of rest and ineffective training can lead to a lean patch — characterised by a dip in performance and progression — during a workout regimen
Muscle plateau hits fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike, and one way to overcome it is by varying the intensity and frequency of training through progressive loading.
A person can overcome muscle plateau through progressive loading or overloading while training.

Consistent improvement of the body’s optimal performance level is important in a fitness journey, for it ensures you attain the desired results. Regular and systematic training leads to tangible gains in performance. However, almost everyone who get into a workout regimen would invariably hit a lean patch where the performance dips or the progression slows down – the dreaded workout or muscle plateau.

Muscle plateau is common and is caused by many factors, ranging from the body adapting to a workout routine and ineffective training to lack of proper rest, improper diet and other health issues.

Reasons for muscle plateau

“Most common reasons for it are ineffective training, lack of proper rest, lack of good nutrition and health issues,” says Leo Xavier, a fitness and martial arts coach based in Kochi, Kerala. “An individual will not reach the goal which he/she set earlier in a particular time frame. It can be muscle gain, fat loss or reaching a particular speed in the case of a runner. In other words, the performance won’t improve at the same rate as it did earlier.”

In such a situation, an individual may feel that the workout is easy or there is a lack of energy along with fat gain or loss in muscle mass, adds Xavier.

The process of adapting to a fitness routine can also cause workout plateau. A review article published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health states that the adaptation process, associated with several functional properties, occurs over a period of time during exercise. Both muscle strength and fatigue adapt differently after several weeks of training to reach the plateau.

Overcoming muscle plateau

Many factors need to be addressed for overcoming muscle or workout plateau.

“First of all, it must be checked whether the nutrition is right, as diet is one of the main reasons due to which people get positive or negative effects from their training. So, right amount of carbs and protein along with necessary vitamins and minerals are essential,” says Xavier. “In addition, proper rest should also be given priority. If someone work outs for two hours every day, then progress will depend on the amount of rest. Otherwise, the body will get weak.”

Changing the workout routine is another key element in overcoming plateau, says Xavier. “Progressive loading or overloading during weight training can be done so that the frequency, intensity and volume of the workout changes,” he adds. “And while doing this, the person can also push a bit more, trying different variations targeting a muscle or group of muscles.”

Periodisation and workout plateau

Periodisation is a cyclical method to plan and manage training.

“One can’t always push throughout the year. They have to peak at certain times of the year and then go back to a level of training that helps maintain the gains,” says Xavier.

This is a system used by professional athletes who peak during competition, take rest and restart at a much lower level. This ensures proper recovery for the body, thereby avoiding injuries as well as plateau.


  • Muscle plateau occurs when the body adapts to a certain training routine over a period of time.
  • Factors like improper diet, ineffective training and lack of rest can cause muscle plateau.
  • Implementing variety in training, both in intensity as well as types of exercises or activity, can help overcome workout plateau.

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