Five Ways to Keep Progressing and Avoid Training Plateaus

December 7, 2010

Must See Training Videos

Your training was moving along quite well, but recently your weight room numbers have stayed the same—or even gone down. You feel sluggish and just don’t feel like working out.

You’ve hit a plateau.

Or, you are actually overtrained. Many top athletes face this problem. Overtraining syndrome has many symptoms, including:

•    Fatigue and lack of energy
•    Mild leg soreness
•    Pain in muscles and joints
•    Sudden drop in performance
•    Lack of performance gains
•    Inability to sleep
•    Decreased immunity [more colds and flu]
•    Reduction in training capacity/intensity
•    Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
•    Increased incidence of injury

So, how do you avoid plateaus that negatively affect your training performance?

Plan Ahead
Any good training plan includes periods of rest. Athletes want to train the entire year, but doing so will hinder your performance.

Without a plan, you probably hit the gym right after the season ends. But by doing so, you risk hurting your performance for the upcoming year. Planning ahead means giving yourself recovery weeks in the post-season—to let your body heal and recharge for the next season.

Regress Your Training
Regression means going down a level—basically making an exercise slightly easier for a short period of time. This lets your body recover without an interruption in training. I regress my athletes’ training for one week every three to four weeks during their training cycle.

By performing the right exercises and setting up a training cycle, you can have regression that leads to progression.

Try the following ways to regress your training:

•    Go from dynamic to static exercises [e.g., if your core training normally involves  movement, change to isometric holds like Planks or Bridge Holds]
•    Move from a weighted exercise to bodyweight [e.g., substitute Push-Ups for the Bench Press]
•    Go from a larger base of support to a smaller one [e.g., instead of a normal Squat, do a Split Squat, which targets different areas and challenges you in new ways]

To regress during a training cycle, try:

•    Decreasing the total pounds lifted
•    Performing sets of higher reps with less weight/resistance
•    Decreasing the number of training sessions [train just two days a week instead of three or four]
•    Changing the physical location of your training [this is my favorite tip, because if you always train in the same environment with the same people, your workouts can get stale. A new environment will refresh you]

Change Your Training Focus
Switch up your training focus throughout the year. If you always work to gain more muscle mass, your body will adapt to the training and stall out.

Concentrate on conditioning for a few weeks, then muscle endurance, strength, power, etc. Adding a variety of exercises that work all aspects of your training will help you retain past gains. You don’t want to be super strong but not conditioned enough to make it through a whole game!

By changing your focus every four to six weeks, you will be refreshed and look forward to the next phase of your development.

Foam Rolling
To make sure my athletes stay healthy, I have them foam roll and stretch during every training session.

Foam rolling is essentially a form of self-myofascial release [self-massage], where scar tissue and adhesions developed through training are broken down. Major muscle groups like the quads, hamstrings and pecs can be rolled; but also roll areas like the thoracic spine and iliotibial band, where connective tissue can develop adhesions and scar tissue.

Scars inhibit the muscles from performing at their highest level. Rolling requires more than one application to make a difference, but over time, it can help prevent overtraining.

Get More Sleep
This is the most important tip to prevent overtraining. GET MORE SLEEP. [It really can be that simple.] Your body does the majority of its recovery work during the sleep cycle, repairing and preparing muscles for the next day’s training. If you get less than eight hours of sleep a night, you are going to hit a plateau sooner rather than later.

Follow those five simple steps, and you will have no problem avoiding the dreaded plateau, which can haunt even the greatest athletes.


Wil Fleming is the owner of Force Fitness in Bloomington, Ind. During the past two years, he has helped more than 15 athletes go on to play Division I athletics. He is the author of the speed and agility portion of the soon-to-be released
Essentials of High School Strength and Conditioning. Prior to his career as an athletic performance coach, Fleming was an All-American athlete at Indiana University and a competitor in the 2008 Olympic Trials for track and field.

Wil Fleming
- Wil Fleming is the owner of Force Fitness in Bloomington, Ind. During the past two years, he has helped more than 15 athletes go on...
Wil Fleming
- Wil Fleming is the owner of Force Fitness in Bloomington, Ind. During the past two years, he has helped more than 15 athletes go on...
Must See
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 4,583,052
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 37,349,342
Skylar Diggins Attacks the Off-Season On and Off the Court
Views: 6,899,498

Featured Videos

Abby Wambach's Med Ball Core Workout Views: 187,099
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 81,330
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 5: Fundamentals Training Views: 227,291
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,852
Yoga for Athletes: Crow Pose
Views: 3,539,390
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,865,925
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,798,784
Johny Hendricks Workout Overview
Views: 822,554

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

SURVIVING SEALFIT: How Not to Hurt Yourself (Like I Did)

3 Keys to Successful Off-Season Training

WATCH: D.J. Williams' Endurance-Crushing Towel Plank Walk

WATCH: Darnell Dockett Manhandles 655-Pound Tire

3 Great Ways to Reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

4 Unnecessary Things That Only Overcomplicate Your Workouts

WATCH: Shawne Merriman's 'Bus Driver' Shoulder Workout

Why All Athletes Should Do Soft Tissue Work

WATCH: Giuseppe Rossi's 360-Degree Pilates Side Plank

How to Train for a Triathlon Without Going Broke

Ndamukong Suh's High School Highlights Not What You'd Expect

Why These 7 NFL Receivers Do Pilates

WATCH: Vontae Davis's Half-Box Squat with Plate

How to Repair Your Body and Mind After a Long Season

Fixing Common Weaknesses in Lacrosse Players

WATCH: Takeo Spikes Still Working On Getting a Bigger Neck

Workouts of the Top Players in the 2015 NBA Playoffs

The Dangers of Heat Stress for Athletes

WATCH: David Wilson's Acrobat Ab Workout

How to Time Training Peaks to Be Your Best When It Matters Most

5 Boss Workouts From Olympic Snowboarder Hannah Teter

Michael Bamiro's Big Breakthrough

The 3 Best Posture Exercises That Build Strength

Victor Cruz's Pool Workout with a ViPR

Improve Your Lacrosse Power With These Exercises

WATCH: Travis Kelce's Split-Squat Jump with Battling Ropes

WATCH: Usain Bolt's 2-in-1 Decline Sit-Up with Bench Press

Kevin Love

WATCH: Torrey Smith and the Human Hammer Pull-Down

5 Big Benefits of Yoga for Basketball Players

How to Find the Perfect Strength Coach or Personal Trainer

Odell Beckham Jr. Shows Out on the Speed Ladder

How Kerri Walsh Jennings is Gearing Up for Her 5th Olympics

SURVIVING SEALFIT: 3 Ways SEAL-Style Workouts Change Your Life

WATCH: A. J. Green and Justin Houston Pushing a Truck