Strategies to Break Plateaus/Increasing your 1RM

“Hey Matt, what is the best way to break my plateaus? I have been stuck on my 1RM for a while now and can’t seem to increase it at all” – thank you for the question!

plateau is a weight that you are stuck at for an extended period of time on any of your lifts. Very difficult to overcome, but here are some strategies to help you break through:

  • SHOCK the system – when looking at periodization, there is always a shock week. This shock week can be used to overload the system, and put yourself into a short and control over-training state. A shock week can introduce an additional over load for the muscle group by using one week in a month to do an increase in volume
  • Alter the type of resistance – if you are someone who is stuck at a certain weight for your 1RM, another thing you can try is changing the type of resistance. Doing regular weights (whether it be squats, bench press, or any other multi-joint, compound lift) would be considered a constant resistance. What you could do is change the type of resistance you’re using, so potentially drop your weight by 5-10% and add in something like chains or resistance bands to add in a variable resistance.
  • Target the Tempo – In my opinion, this will be the MOST effective strategy to breaking through stubborn plateaus. When you focus on the eccentric element of the lift – the lengthening of the muscle – you create more micro tears in the muscle. As the body recovers from the micro tears (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – DOMS) it will adapt to handling a higher level of stress. The ability of a certain muscle group to tackle more stress can lead to your ability to push more weight than you could before.
  • Use Smaller Increments – this one is much less common. In most gyms, the smallest plate you’ll find is 2.5 lbs, which may seem light but lets put this into perspective: if you can add on the smallest plate in the gym once a week, you’re adding 5 lbs to your 1RM weekly. Unfortunately friends, you’ll need to use needles, not weights to get gains like that. It may be worth it to invest in your own set of 1 lb plates that you can use. These will make it more realistic to break plateaus because you are not making as significant jump, and I know 5 lbs doesn’t sound like a lot, but it adds up quick.

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