Well, if you’re stubborn like me, you probably decided to dig deeper and work even harder. I applaud your tenacity, but unfortunately (and I learned this the hard way), forcing yourself through a plateau never works. To the contrary, this tactic is usually counterproductive.
If working harder isn’t the answer, then what can you do? The answer is simple yet completely counterintuitive.
Here’s your solution: Take a step back in order to take two steps forward. In other words, lighten up your training for a short period of time. Believe me, I realize how psychologically difficult this can be. But in reality, you have two options. The choice is yours:
Option A- Continue to push towards your goal and get nowhere, or worse yet, get injured and burned out.
Option B- Back off only to come back stronger, more motivated and more physically primed to move towards your goal.
When you take a step back and view the scenario objectively, making the right choice is a no brainer. But going with “Option B” will challenge your intuition. This is when a good and trustworthy training coach can help.
To better demonstrate this point, I will use my friend and client, John “Giant” McGrath as an example. For years, John’s goal was to get ripped. He actually got down to six percent body fat and had a set of abs resembling an anatomy chart. I think it’s safe to say he realized his goal—and then some!
But recently, he decided to focus on a different yet congruent objective. His new goal was to reach strength levels he had never achieved before. Note: The Giant is in his 50’s, suffered shoulder separation from a skiing accident and has been training for 30 years.
Needless to say, the above factors make hitting personal strength records more than a little tricky. This would definitely take some clever programming (this is where I came in 🙂 ) So I designed his routine and we began to work towards his goals.
After 8 weeks, we were right at his all time best strength levels. This was a great feat, and we were definitely encouraged, but I noticed the weights were moving more slowly than I would like them to. I sensed that a back off would be necessary—and soon.
When I suggested to the Giant that he back off for a bit, I could see the look of disappointment in his eyes. “In just one more week, I can break my records”, he implored. But I knew it would be best for him to back off and I insisted upon it.
For the next two weeks, we continued to train but with very different goals. The rules for the back off period were:
1) No movements were to be goal-oriented.
2) The most physically stressful exercises where completely removed and replaced with more joint friendly movements.
3) Any major lift that remained in the back off routine was not to exceed 70% of max weight. Furthermore, the focus was to be purely on technique.
4) A lot of time was spent on mobility and prehab protocols during each and every workout.
After the two weeks of backing off, The Giant was salivating to get back after it. Additionally, his body felt better than it had felt in weeks. It was now time to smash his old records and do it in style.
It took us only four weeks to dominate his old maxes! His new maxes include:
Trap Bar Deadlift- Old Max 455/ New Max 500
Chin Ups- Old Max +90 lbs/ New Max +115 lbs
Squats- Old Max 295/ New Max 335 lbs
Strap Push Ups- Old Max +40 lbs for 12 reps New Max +40 lbs for 20 reps
I know for sure that if he had continued without the back off period, he would have never achieved these numbers.
Here is a short video of the Giant training:
Well, there you have it. I appreciate someone’s heart and will to train hard, but you’ve got to train smart as well. Listen to your body and don’t be afraid to take one step back. If you back off in the right way at the right time, it will be the quickest and surest way to take two steps forward.
Dedicated to your success,