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Fitness Tips: How to Build A Perfect Bodybuilding Split
Hitting A Plateau in Weightliftng
Every bodybuilder or weightlifter that has a few years of lifting under their belt probably has had to deal with a plateau at some point in their time at the gym. When you first begin lifting, the gains and progress come easily. Your body isn’t used to the stress weightlifting puts on your muscles, and it is forced to rapidly adapt to keep up. However, the more you lift, the more progress slows as your body becomes increasingly familiarized with performing in the gym.
Sometimes it seems like no matter how hard you train, you just can’t beat a plateau. Your lift numbers begin to stall; you lose energy, focus, and motivation. You may even begin to question if lifting is even worth the time and intensity you previously put in. This process is perhaps one of the most mentally and physically exhausting components there is in bodybuilding or weightlifting.
But don’t stress: every seasoned weightlifter has experienced plateaus before, and if you get down to it, plateaus are healthy in the long run. If you manage to dig deep down and find the energy and motivation to beat a tough plateau, you’ll emerge a more experienced and talented weightlifter overall (and with some patience skills to boot!)
If you’re still struggling with plateaus however, don’t stress. This Hub will go over a few useful tips and tricks you can implement in your weightlifting routine to beat those pesky plateaus.
Step 1: Analyze Your Nutrition
As the saying goes, bodybuilding truly does begin in the kitchen. Without a doubt, poor nutrition or meal planning is one of the most common causes behind an athlete experiencing a plateau in weightlifting.
Think about it, if you aren’t fueling your body correctly with your basic macronutrients (fats, protein, and carbs) how can you expect to grow and perform at optimal levels? What happens to many weightlifters is that they begin by eating a sufficient amount of food for their current bodyweight and intensity level, but fail to increase their total caloric consumption despite increasing in weight and performance intensity. Your body is a machine, and as the machine gets bigger and works harder, it needs more fuel.
2000 calories and a shoddy meal plan may work for beginning lifters, but as you progress, fine-tuning your meal plan and nutrition should be a priority. Calculate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) from any of the online calculators that offer the service for free, and find your maintenance calories (the amount of calories your body will burn in a 24 hour period with every day activity). Eat at that amount to remain the same weight, or increase your caloric intake above your TDEE (500 calories extra is generally a good ballpark) to slowly increase muscle mass.
Calculating your TDEE and making sure you eat slightly above it will make sure you are eating enough food in most cases, but it does not mean that your are eating the right kinds of food. Are you binging on junk food for half your meals, eating too much salt, or lacking protein? Or perhaps your diet is too carb heavy, and you have energy in the gym but your gains just aren’t sticking?
To make sure your nutrition is truly on point, breakdown your macro nutrients and analyze them. Decide what kind of macro nutrient split you want to follow (for example, 40/40/20 or 40% protein, 40% carbs, 20% fats is a common one) and then eat to fit these macros. Bodybuilding.com has a good macronutrient calculator that is free to use. Track your daily food intake with a pen and notebook or websites like myfitnesspal, and make sure you hit your daily macros!
Finally, stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes up! This is another critical component many weightlifters forget, but it essential to remain hydrated so you can continue to perform. I have another Hub on how you can increase the health of your breakfasts as well as some basic tips for sticking to a bodybuilding meal plan for more information.
Step 2: Analyze Your Workouts
Let’s face it, hitting the gym consistently, week by week, is hard. We may all love weightlifting, but it doesn’t mean the aches and pains, the soreness, or the times you have to miss out on social events to hit the gym doesn’t wear you down overtime. It’s easy to fall into ruts, or fail to mix-up your workouts/training. If you find yourself hitting plateaus, perhaps it’s because you’ve been following the same old split or routine for months on end and you haven’t been pushing your limits.
Mixing up Your Routine
Like I mentioned earlier, our bodies are machines that adapt to the stresses they are subjected to. Naturally, if you follow the same workout for months or years, eventually your body will not be as challenged by the workout. If you’re hitting plateaus, it may be a good idea to begin mixing up your workouts. How can you do this?
Change Exercise Order
It might sound like madness, but your exercise order isn’t bound by what every other guy in the gym does or what the split you pulled from the web outlines. Yes, there is some sense in doing your heavy/compound lifts first while you still have energy, but this isn’t set in stone. Some days, try mixing in accessory work before hitting the big lifts (at slightly lower weight), or mix up the order of your accessory lifts in general.
Change Your Rep Range
My Hub “Fitness Tips: How to Build the Perfect Bodybuilding Routine” outlines how to build the perfect bodybuilding routine, and it also covers the concept of changing your rep ranges. There is no perfect formula for repetition ranges and weights out there, but there is some general idea behind what rep ranges should be used for what purposes
General Repetition Range Purposes:
- Reps in the 1-5 range: These reps should be done with heavy weight and have an emphasis on building muscular strength.
- Reps in the 6-12 range: This is the middle ground. Use moderately heavy weights for a mix of strength and hypertrophy training.
- Reps in the 12+ range: This number of reps helps build muscular endurance and pack on some size through increased hypertrophy. This is great for minor muscle groups like biceps or triceps as you can completely burn out and earn a massive pump.
This is another aspect of your training you can as some variety to. Have you been doing 5x5 bench for your entire life, or curling 12 reps without fail? Why not bench 5x12, or slap on some weight once in a while and curl 5x5? Sure, the basic lifts and set numbers behind them are good to act as a basis for your training, but you shouldn’t be afraid of experimenting. I personally saw very minimal growth in my chest following a typical 5x5 benching style, and it was only when I resorted to high volume dumbbell benching that I began to see some progress. Everyone responds differently to various repetition ranges and weights, so experiment and discover what stimulates your body the best!
And never be afraid to lower your ego and weight. One of the most intense leg workouts I have ever had involved squatting light for up to thirty reps at a time. Don’t knock something till you try it.
Change Your Split:
If you’re truly stuck in a plateau and have tried fixing your nutrition and mixing up workouts, this option may be another option. Sometimes your body truly requires a major change to shake off a plateau, so consider trying a different program or style for a few weeks to really shock your body.
Step 3: Analyze Your Recovery
Sometimes, it isn’t nutrition or a lack of variety that is behind a plateau. If your strength has come to a standstill and you aren’t making progress, it may be due to a lack of recovery time or poor recovery practice.
Symptoms to look out for:
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Consistent join pain or aches
- Frequently getting sick
If you frequently experience these symptoms while not making progress in the gym, you may be stuck in the cycle of overtraining/under recovering, and this is a terrible cycle to be trapped in.
There are several ways to help boost your recovery.
- Sleep enough: Your window of sleep is a critical window in which your body can rest and torn muscles can repair. Make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours a night of sleep, and increase the quality of your sleep in addition to this. Don’t drink caffeine too late before bed, and make sure your room temperature is comfortable.
- Eat enough: This ties back into the concept behind Step 1, but your body needs fuel (I hate repeating myself but this is critical).
- Consider Re-Feed Days: A re-feed day is essentially a high carbohydrate day of eating, and overall, an occasional re-feed day can help boost your energy and restore vital glycogen stores which will enhance your performance. An excellent guide on how to go about incorporating a re-feed day can be found here.
- Consider Deloading: There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back from the gym. If you are absolutely exhausted, there’s no use in trying to hit new lifting records. Take a break on intense workouts for a week or 2, and hit the gym at 60-70% intensity to let your body truly recover. You won’t lose your gains from an occasional deload week.
Step 4: Consider Supplementation
Sometimes, a plateau isn’t really a plateau, just a little hiccup. If you feel as if your nutrition, training, and recovery is on point but you just need a little extra kick, perhaps supplements may be of assistance. However, supplements should NOT be the primary “fix” for breaking through plateaus. Supplements are designed to assist training, not spearhead it.
Some supplements you may consider include:
Protein Powder: Protein powder is cheap, easily available, and an excellent way to ensure that you’re getting enough protein for the day. If you typically struggle to get those last bits of daily protein in, protein powder may be a lifesaver!
BCAAs: Branched chain amino acids are essentially broken down amino acids and ultimately assist in muscle synthesis and help prevent fatigue. If you find your are extremely sore after a workout, BCAAs may help!
Creatine: Creatine helps supply energy to the cells in your bodies, including your muscles. For busting through plateaus, creatine can help provide the extra energy kick you need in your workouts.
Check out the links below for some of the best deals on quality protein supplements!
Keep Your Nutrition in Check!
Do You Think Overtraining Exists?
Some Final Thoughts
I hope you have found this Hub to be informative, and perhaps you have even used the information from this page to help bust through a plateau in the gym! Thanks for reading, and be sure to share this Hub with a friend who may be struggling with their own plateaus in the gym