How to Break Through a Strength Plateau
Typically when you hit a physical plateau in your training, attention is paid to the rearrangement of sets, reps, or exercise selection. Rarely is attention paid to movement patterns, stability, and alignment, despite all three playing a critical role in your ability to progressively lift more weight.
People often neglect these aspects of training and in turn, this limits their ability to reach their full strength potential and places them at an increased risk of injury.
Often, when a strength plateau hits, it’s because the smaller stabilizing muscles, tendons and ligaments lack the strength to move heavier loads because they were neglected due to poor movement patterns which may have forced your body to take compensatory action and place all emphasis on the prime movers. Full body strength requires the strength of not just your major muscle groups but also the strength of your ligaments, tendons, bones, and your smaller muscle groups.
I see so many people sacrifice movement and alignment integrity for the sake of moving more weight. They’re impatient. Unfortunately, this approach just heightens your risk of injury and sets you up to hit a strength plateau sooner.
When it comes to your big lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead pressing, etc), I always suggest making sure your form is on point before you begin to aggressively push weight. Watch technique videos, or better yet record yourself lifting and either self-assess or seek a professional who can assess your movement patterns for you. Sometimes a few sessions with a personal trainer are all that’s needed to ensure your form is solid.
Another good tip is to make sure you frequently incorporate targeted work for your smaller, often neglected muscle groups. For example balance heavy overhead or bench pressing with work that targets your external rotators and your scapula. Balance out your squats with movements like Peterson step ups, banded clamshells, and hip drops which help strengthen the hips and the smaller muscles surrounding the knees.
Another great tool is to incorporate movements that force you to stabilize, such as suitcase farmers walks, single arm overhead walking lunges, Turkish get ups or kettlebell windmills.
Also, adding in some unilateral training (working one side of the body at a time) ensures that you level out any imbalances that could be present and could be limiting your strength progress.
Another thing you can do is use proper supplementation. When it comes to strength training a good supplement to use to boost your strength would be a top of the line testosterone booster. These will help your body increase its natural testosterone production and we all know that the more testosterone you have in your body the stronger and more muscular you are and a good test booster can really help you through a plateau.
Bottom line: it’s not always just about changing your exercises or rearranging sets and reps. When alignment, stability, and technique are prioritized in training consistently, it helps ensure that the entire body is utilized efficiently in a way that reduces tension and effort in overused areas. It also greatly reduces your risk of injury and helps keep you from hitting plateaus in your training.