Am I hitting a pleateau? How do I get over it?

Algonar

First Post
Hi everyone,

First, some details: 34, male, 69kg, 170cm. Started training in October.

Mainly focused on pull/push day workouts and training every day, as follows:
Pull days: pull ups, chin ups, neutral grip pull ups and L sits on rings.
Push days: Ring dips, low diamond push ups, squats.

The last month or so has been amazing for me in terms of gains, I went from being able to do 3+2+1 pull ups to now doing 8 + 6 + 4. Ring dips from barely doing 2+1 to now doing 10+10+9. I was really pleased.

In the last week, however, these gains seem to have stopped. Where before I'd add at least 1 rep every other day, it now takes me at least double (sometimes triple!) the time to add that rep.
To give an example with the push ups, I started off doing 15 > 18 > 21 > 22 but am now "stuck" to 30 for the past week.

Any advice on how to overcome that?

Thanks!
 

mikhael

Level 7 Valued Member
Go and do 100-200 reps. Yes, I know that you stuck at 30 but doesn't matter. Do a massive volume session and take 2 days off. It also doesn't matter how you will do it, it will probably look like 30,25,20,20,15, etc. Don't burn yourself but also don't hesitate to long, up to 1 minute.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

@Algonar
If you want to increase your number of repetitions, below are two excellent routines, roughly similar, dedicated to pull ups and push ups.
Pull ups:

Push ups:

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Philippe Geoffrion

Level 6 Valued Member
The old saying is everything works but nothing works forever. There are many options from this point, but some change is needed. It mustn’t be drastic, but something must change. Even the order of exercise would constitute a change. What are your goals? More reps, more muscle, more strength?

The first few months/years of training always yield the best gains. As training goes on, you must work harder for less results. This is where people usually give up. First assess your goals, then decide which course of action best suits these. There is a plethora of programs on SF geared towards these. Increase pull-ups? Russian fighter pull-up program, ladders, etc. First know what you want, second figure out how to get it or as DJ dats plan the work then work the plan.
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Level 6 Valued Member
In the last week, however, these gains seem to have stopped.

Any advice on how to overcome that?

"Everything Works But Nothing Works Forever"

At some point your body adapts to a training program.

When adaptation occurs, progress stops.

Periodization Training

This is the key to overcoming it.

It is a planned progressive overload program that is increased for a selected number of weeks.

The final week is where you push the limit.

It is then followed by a new Periodization Training Cycle.

Exercise intensity (weight, repetition, sets or the combination) are decreased to something that is light and easy.

Doing so promotes...

Active Recovery

The lighter intensity promotes recovery; this is where an increases in strength muscle mass occur.

Blood flow to the muscles delivers nutrients and take out the garbage; metabolites.

Continuing Or Increasing The Intensity or Volume

This is contra-indicated.

Once a program stalls, it falls into "Overreaching". You have taxed the muscle beyond their capacity to recovery.

Continuing or increasing the intensity or volume in a fatigued state pushes from "Overreaching" to "Overtraining".

Wound Healing

Research shows this is what amount to common sense.

The less the trauma, the faster recovery; as with Overreaching.

The greater the trauma, the longer the recovery; as with Overtraining.

Summary

1) Once you stop making progress with a training program, you need to drop the intensity and/or volume down. This promotes Active Recovery.

2) Continuing push yourself once Overreaching has occurred eventually lead to Overtraining. Your strength decreases and it take you longer to recovery.

3) Periodization Training is the key to long term progress.

Planned progressive overload followed by planned Active Recovery.
 
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bluejeff

Level 5 Valued Member
+1 to periodization

@Algonar, Speaking from experiences similar to yours in the past, it'll make a huge difference. I'm convinced this is why the calisthenics world has been chock full of dudes with tendonitis and frustratingly long plateaus. Everyone wants advanced skills but are always working very close to their maximum capacity so there's no room for supercompensation.
 

Algonar

First Post
There's quite a bit of advice up here. Thank you all.
I'm not really sure how to employ periodization - but if I were to combine @pet' 's links and from what I gathered reading about @kennycro@@aol.com 's recommended periodization, my plan is this:

1. Continue as I am on the pull/push days (doing my max possible reps)
2. On "off" days, keep doing some reps from the exercises of the previous day (e.g. If I did 30 pushups on a push day, do 20 spread widely (say 4x5) on a pull day)
3. After 10 such days, take 3 days' rest
4. Test for new max
5. Go back to #1

Does that make sense?
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

@Algonar
Yes it could be something like this. You build up volume for a while. Then you rest right before the test. Once you tested (and hopefully improved) you can decide what to do next: maintenance, keep improving using another method, etc...

If you want to keep increasing your number of repetitions, something interesting could be to work on the one arm version, or even the one arm one leg version. Obviously, both of these moves are performed in the low rep range. These versions mainly work on strength, and have as a "by product" an excellent transfer toward high repetition (so strength-endurance).

The fact of doing higher repetition training before is good because it built some tendons strength, which is not that much worked by regular low repetition training.

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Level 6 Valued Member
I'm not really sure how to employ periodization - but if I were to combine @pet' 's links and from what I gathered reading about @kennycro@@aol.com 's recommended periodization, my plan is this:

1. Continue as I am on the pull/push days (doing my max possible reps)

Does that make sense?

No

It makes no sense.

Periodization Training

Evidently, I didn't adequately explain it so that you completely understand the fundamentals of Periodization Training.

"Stimulate, Don't Annihilate"

Your continuing to do max repetition amounts to annihilation, beating your body into submission.

If that is your objective, an earlier recommendation of, "Go and do 100-200 reps" is spot on.

With that said, you can find some good Periodization Training articles on line to gain more knowledge on how Periodization Training; what it is, how to write an effective training cycle and implement it.
 
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Algonar

First Post
@kennycro@@aol.com
From what I've read online, the entire point of periodization training is to plan ahead and get your body both the rest it needs and the challenge that's required to develop it - in such a way that you would reach a certain point in time (e.g. competition) with both strength and muscle energy that allow you to get the best possible results.

What I suggested (and is, as I said, a mix of recommendations I've seen up here) is both planned ahead and includes higher/lower intensity days, with rest periods, aimed at getting me both working out and rested on "test" days.

As for my objective, it is actually super simple: Get strong. Get fit. Get healthy.
Up until a month ago (and for the last 10 years) I was the classic couch potato. Sitting in front of a computer all day and in front of a TV all weekend. No exercise, flabby body. Weak. That's what I aim to change.

I must say that so far my daily routine has been working really well. I don't feel any muscle soreness or fatigue. The only thing I recently encountered was slowed progress.
When working out today I found that adding a 4th set (as recommended in @pet' 's linked plans) didn't make me any more tired or sore, so I'm hoping it will help.

If you have any tips on how I could improve upon this plan - I'd be more than happy to read them.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

@Algonar
What I suggested (and is, as I said, a mix of recommendations I've seen up here) is both planned ahead and includes higher/lower intensity days, with rest periods, aimed at getting me both working out and rested on "test" days.
Below is a link where you can find a plan which has light / medium / heavy day:

As you see, light is 10RM, medium is 8RM and heavy is 3-5RM.

As for my objective, it is actually super simple: Get strong. Get fit. Get healthy.
If you want to keep things simple, but not necessarily easy, you can also do something more linear:
3-5 sets of 3-5reps, with 3-5 minutes rest between sets. If you do bodyweight exercise, this can be done almost daily because there is no excessive volume. As soon as it gets really easy, you can pick up an harder variation (or a heavier weight if you go for weighted calisthenics).

This approach is more feeling-based than anything else.

GTG approach is roughly based on this. You train a skill often, almost daily, with perfect form. When you eventually get it, you progress to another variation.

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Rumsmike

Level 4 Valued Member
Why not just pick a smart program that's free and written by someone who knows what they're doing with push/pull/squat built in, progression built in, periodization built in. Exercise selection is all you need to think about. You could run this for years with different variations and keep progressing.

 

bluejeff

Level 5 Valued Member
@Algonar there are a couple things that come to mind that may help you.

First: if you are newer to training, then you will see gains come quickly, and then start to plateau off the longer you train. The longer you train, the trickier it becomes to break plateaus. That's where programming/periodization comes into play, which is my next point. . .

Second: there are MANY ways to periodize, and it will take some time, research and experience to find what works best for you so you can make sustainable gains over a long period of time. Different kinds of plans generate different kinds of results. So it follows that if you want hypertrophy, you'd do a totally different plan than if you were just after absolute/relative strength. If you just want to be fit and healthy, ("look good naked" is one I come across quite a bit) and don't have any very particular goals beyond that, then something like @pet' suggested in post #11 would be perfect. Especially if you enjoy training frequently.

All that being said, periodization is a little more about how you plan things over a long period of time, not just day to day. If you read enough StrongFirst material, you will notice that the volume and intensity tend to vary both from training session to session AND from week to week or month to month.

If you gradually increase your intensity or volume ("adding a rep every couple days") you will hit a point of platueau, or diminishing returns. If you are sore or tired at the start of a new session this is a good indicator that your body hasn't recovered in time for that session. The body needs a chunk of time to recover and supercompensate, not just a day or two.

Here is a simple way to periodize: Train for 3-5 weeks, each week increasing volume or intensity, and then take a WEEK of about half your usual volume AND intensity. This is often referred to as a "Deload" week.

So, for example, if you're doing ring dips for sets of 10, then you might switch to chair/bar dips or even bench dips for sets of 5. A deload week needs to feel easy pretty much the whole week. You still want to work the muscle groups, but at a significantly lower intensity. If you're training high rep calisthenics (especially on rings) your joints will thank you over the long run for this.

Hope some of that is helpful.

Edit: Also +1 to all the program suggestions people have linked
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@Algonar, I have simple advice for you - added some weighted pullups to your program.

I speak from personal experience in saying that adding weighted pullups to my training helped my bodyweight-only numbers improve. And if you choose not to add weight for whatever reason, look into other ways of limiting the number of pullups you can do, e.g., do one hand plus 2 or 3 fingers on the other hand.

The sweet spot, IMHO, is to work with a level of resistance where your maximum reps will be perhaps 3/4 of what you maximum reps would be bodyweight only, and then work with only a part of that. E.g., if you can do 10 bodyweight pullups and can do 7 pullups with a 10 kg, then add some training of bw + 10 kg pullups in the 3-5 rep range.

I used a very simple training schedule: once a week, I did a warmup set, a near-max set, and a backoff near-max set with a chinup grip. 2 or 3 other days each week, I did weighted pullup work like traditional strength training, multiple sets with moderately heavy resistance, and typically starting with a pullup grip and finishing with a chinup grip as I grew fatigued. And I'd backoff once every 3-5 weeks on my near-max day. Doing this, I made slow, steady progress, adding another rep or two every month to my near-max effort. Once every few months, go for as many as you can by making near-max day an actual max day.

-S-
 

mrdave100

Level 5 Valued Member
Hey Algonar, I can’t recommend Pet’s article about the concept of light, medium, and heavy days enough. I’ve been making really good progress utilizing it.
 
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