We get this (extremely vague) question often:
“My gains have stalled. What do you suggest?”
It’s tough to answer since we don’t know your main goals, your age, or even if you’re a girl person, a boy person, or one of those people who identifies as a lesbian parakeet. But here’s some general advice:
1 – Do the opposite.
There are tons of great training programs here on T Nation, but the best one is probably the one that’s the most different than the one you’re doing now.
Here’s an example. Back in 2005, not-yet-a-Dr. Chad Waterbury introduced a training system based around doing 10 sets of 3 reps. Not 3 x 10, but 10 x 3. And T Nation readers who adopted the program reported great gains in muscle and strength.
Now, there’s more to the program than the set/rep scheme, but doing 10 x 3 was radically different than what most lifters were used to doing. It presented a new challenge, recruited motor units that had been largely dormant, ramped up force production and, in short, “shocked the system” and triggered new adaptations in size and strength.
So take a look at how you’ve been training for the past few months. Now, do the opposite:
- Always do 12-15 reps? Then load up the plates and do 3-5.
- Always train super heavy for low reps? Then lighten it up and shoot for 60 seconds of time under tension for each set. (Set a timer and try not to poop out your spleen.)
- Always use barbells because “free weights are best?” Switch to a mostly machine-based program.
- Always do decline barbell presses? Do inclined dumbbell presses.
- Train 6 days a week? Train 3. Or vice-versa.
You get the idea.
Or just adopt someone else’s program. I know, the internet experts often advise people to avoid “cookie cutter” programs, but they can be valuable. Any program from the T Nation archives is probably going to push you harder than you push yourself. And it’s probably going to force you to try some new things.
2 – Do something that excites you.
Several T Nation coaches have said it: Training very hard using a substandard program is better than lazily going through the motions on the “perfect” program.
Take 6 weeks off from what you “should” be doing and train in way that gets you amped up. Maybe you’ve been training like a bodybuilder because hypertrophy is your main goal, but powerfully swinging around kettlebells looks damn fun at the moment. So do it. (We won’t tattle on you.)
You’ll get better in other ways, and after a while you’ll be itching to do slow negatives, set-extending partial reps, and pump workouts again.
3 – Examine your diet.
Keep a food log. After a week, figure out the average number of calories you consume per day. Now add around 300 to that. Take tape measurements all over your body. Log your rep PRs at the gym.
Readjust that calorie number based on your progress over the next few weeks. Chances are, you just weren’t eating enough.
Bonus: Get the edge with a good supplement.
Still stuck? First, make sure you’re taking care of peri-workout nutrition. Consider Plazma™, Mag-10®, or Surge® Workout Fuel. Check out the details on each one.
If that’s taken care of, read up on Micro-PA®. This will activate and amplify muscle cell protein synthesis. Take a serving one hour before your lifting workouts.