How to Prevent Performance Plateaus and Slumps | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

How to Prevent Performance Plateaus and Slumps

May 14, 2013 | Jim Carpentier

London Olympics Women's Soccer

Humans are creatures of habit. There's something comforting and convenient about the everyday normal.

However, settling into a "comfort zone" does nothing to benefit athletes. Think about the NFL quarterback who stays in the pocket all game, never making adjustments until a charging lineman sends him scrambling. Similarly, if you perform the same workouts, drills and routine for too long, eventually you will either plateau or slump. (Ask the Experts: How Can I Break Through a Plateau?)

Slumps have a debilitating effect on performance. They can put you in a lonely, depressing place and impair every aspect of your game.

When your team is playing flat, it makes adjustments, devising new plays or schemes to change the momentum of the game. Below are some suggestions to help you "change it up" when you're down and out in a mental or physical slump.

On-the-Field Slumps

Benched by a string of poor game performances? Try these tips:

  • Consult your coach for help in making needed adjustments.
  • Spend extra practice time honing your skills to elevate your performance on game day.
  • Change your mindset to stay "in the zone" and avoid slumps.

Academic Slumps

If you study hard for an exam and get a C or, worse, a failing grade, it can cause frustration and moodiness, plunging you into a mental slump. Avoid it by:

  • Changing your study habits. For example, spend more time reviewing and underlining essential points in your classroom notes that are likely to appear on quizzes or exams.
  • Consulting with your teacher. Like going to your coach for advice and assistance in making technique adjustments, ask your teacher for ideas on how to improve your grades—e.g., more active classroom participation, volunteering to do assignments or projects for extra credit.

When Weight Training Becomes Routine

A mental slump in the weight room means you've plateaued and are no longer progressing in resistance or adding muscle. (Ask the Experts: Should I Perform the Same Exercises in Every Workout?) Some ways to stimulate workout growth include:

Reverse Pyramid System

After a few warm-up sets, the conventional weight training method is to increase resistance and decrease reps with each subsequent set, as in the following progression:

  • 60% RM x 12
  • 70% RM x 10
  • 80% RM x 6-8
  • 90% RM x 4

This approach is fine until you max out at the same weight in consecutive workouts. At that point, throw a curveball in your weight training by starting heavy and gradually reducing resistance, as in this progression:

  • 90% RM x 4
  • 80% RM x 6-8
  • 70% RM x 10
  • 60% RM x 12

Change Resistance Equipment Each Workout

Mix it up. Switch from free weights to cables to med balls to bodyweight exercises to invigorate your mind and body. Next workout, try throwing in:

Vary Your Rep Speed

  • Challenge muscles by reducing the weight (about 60% RM x 10) for two sets using a super slow method (lifting the weight in 10 seconds and lowering in 5 seconds).
  • Next two sets, perform explosive reps (80% RM x 8), lifting in one second and lowering in two seconds.

Endurance Training

Running around a track can get monotonous. Replace it with interval training, as in this progression:

  • Sprint 30 yards
  • Jog 10 yards
  • Sprint 20 yards
  • Jog 10 yards
  • Rest 30 seconds and repeat sequence

Change the Terrain

Instead of flat terrain training, run up and down the bleachers or up and down hills.

Jim Carpentier
- Jim Carpentier is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, New Jersey-licensed massage therapist and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as associate health and wellness...
Jim Carpentier
- Jim Carpentier is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, New Jersey-licensed massage therapist and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as associate health and wellness...
Must See
Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 4,401,558
Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion
Views: 542,780
RGIII Talks About His Legacy
Views: 20,424,760

Featured Videos

Quest for the Ring: University of Kentucky Views: 224,492
Add Core Power for Basketball With Damian Lillard's Med Ball Throws Views: 4,255,154
Path to the Pros 2015: The Journey Begins Views: 26,383
Load More


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


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Positive Affirmations for Athletes

Positive AffirmationsIn our day to day lives it is easy to just go through the motions or get caught up in the stress and business of everything we have...

Why You Should Be Training Instead of Exercising

A Coach Describes What It

What's Your Backup Plan When 'Plan A' Fails?

Get Tough on Your Goals to Get Fit

How Clayton Kershaw Gets in the Zone

Does Home Field Actually Confer an Advantage?

4 Ways to Turn Mental Toughness Into Physical Toughness

4 Tips for Building Confidence

Home Field Advantage Is Real, Says Science

Visualize Yourself Winning, and You're Halfway There

How Mental Flexibility Boosts Your Game

The One Word You Should Never Say to Yourself

Tips to Be a Better Leader

Build Mental Toughness in the Weight Room

Growth Mindset: How to Think Like a Champion

Make Goals, Not Deals

Don't Take Your Headphones to the Gym

How to Improve Mental Focus on the Baseball Diamond

So You Didn't Make the Team? 5 Ways to Move On

The Holistic Approach to Impactful Sports Coaching

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Coach

Mental Warm-Up: How to Build Confidence Before a Game

Regain Your Confidence by Getting BIG

6 Ideas to Build a More Cohesive Team

5 Tips to Becoming a Successful Athlete

4 Obstacles to Better Goal Setting

How Mental Performance Affects Your Workouts

Overcome Your Fear of Failure

5 Tips for Playing Mentally Tough Tennis

The Art of Strength and Conditioning Coaching

How to 'Keep Your Cool' on the Football Field

How Mentally Tough Are You?

3 Ways to Develop Your Football Warrior Mentality

5 Steps to Changing a Bad Habit

Use Sports Psychology Against Your Opponents

Can a Faster Brain Increase Sports Performance?

4 Reasons Your Team Is Losing

Study: Athletes Think Faster, More Accurately Than Non-Athletes

How Nik Wallenda Prepared to Walk Across the Grand Canyon

Overcome the 5 Most Common Mental Mistakes in Sports

Stress Exposure Training for Basketball