Constant measurable progress is every athlete’s primary goal. To improve every time you step into the gym may come fast and easy for beginners, but it grows increasingly difficult with every subsequent session. Nothing can become more frustrating than to have seemingly reached a plateau with no improvement in sight. It can be beneficial to analyze what is happening and what you need to do to move forward. Take a look at the following common problems and some solutions you may want to explore to get the momentum going again.

Problem: Total lack of growth in the gym and all major lifts have ceased to progress.

Analysis: Several things may be at play here, and it is most likely a combination of the following factors:

  • Lack of sleep and recovery
  • Psychological preoccupations that distract during your training time and during the day
  • Programming that has not included a long enough recovery cycle
  • Programming that is too basic for intermediate progress
  • Poor nutritional choices

Solutions: So you just broke up with your boyfriend, you are working overtime, and you are doing the same program you did your first year. You, my friend, need to switch up some of these variables. The average athlete vastly underestimates how psychological issues affect their performance. Quite honestly it’s good to be just making it to the gym when your life is in upheaval, but placing another negative (frustration with lack of progress) is only making it worse. Since a number of factors are at play here, it is often best to reorganize and give yourself a fresh start. I often find reminding yourself of why you have made the choice to embrace strongman is a great way to begin the process of overcoming a large plateau.

Take out a sheet of paper and write out one or two paragraphs on why you train, compete and what your goals are for the next year. Next, list the things you love most about training and the benefits from it. Finally, write down a promise to yourself to prioritize your strongman process in a way that is meaningful to you. Now post that paper on your fridge, bedroom mirror or in your car where it will provide a constant reminder to you.

A post shared by Brian Shaw (@shawstrength) on

Now that you have set a positive tone for your advancement, implement a process to make it happen. Begin cleaning up your diet, setting a nighttime ritual, speaking to a counselor (or good friend) about your stresses and researching some new training programs.

While you are doing all this, get in the gym and begin doing your favorite exercises and movements for fun. Enjoy training for a week by doing stone loads, curls and pull ups (or whatever you like). Make the gym a place you get excited about again and make the time to play.

Problem: You have stalled on a key lift (ie; the deadlift or overhead) but progress remains elsewhere.

Analysis: These problems usually have a simple cause and solution and while not limited to the following issues, they can help you find the root cause.

  • Your form has gotten you as far as it can (it’s either not technically correct or is inefficient)
  • Training frequency on the lift may be incorrectly programmed
  • You are neglecting assistance lifts

Solutions: The first point can be a tough pill to swallow, especially if you are fairly proficient at the movement already. You know you need to get better though and can be honest enough with yourself to scrap or modify years of technique. Sometimes you must move backward to move forward. Ask a competent coach to examine your form on the movement and take their suggestions to heart. It may be time to switch to the jerk or become more flexible to improve your deadlift. If you are lucky it may only require a few tweaks.

If your form is good, step back and examine how often you are performing the exercise. Things like overheads and cleans can often be done multiple times per week. Conversely, full deadlifts are often recommended to be more sparsely performed.

To be fully comprehensive, review whether you are doing the right movements to support your main exercises. Are your triceps failing you at lockout or is your posterior chain weak? Cover all the bases to make sure you take a well rounded approach.

Problem: You are all over the map. One week you kill it in on the deck, the next you look like a rookie.

Analysis: Consistency is the key to success.

  • Lifting well on the regular is the only way to improve, often this is organizational

Solution: Get your life in order! Humans are designed to adapt and overcome. Most likely you are flying around in disorder and it is contributing to your inconsistencies.

  • Don’t be late to the gym. Get there early and have a consistent warm up and pre training prep program you go through.
  • Eat consistently. Skipping meals or grabbing whatever you can during the day can have a major impact on your energy levels.
  • Train on the same days and times. You must get your body used to routine. Working your training around your social life will create chaos.
  • Sickness and alcohol can catch up with you weeks later. Stay healthy because having a cold in February can affect your performance in March. Same with a hangover. The butterfly effect of these incidences can really become frustrating.

The positive momentum of progress will create additional gains alone! You must ensure that you are doing everything you can to be the athlete you desire to be. When you take the occasional look at your process and make improvements to it, you are living like a true champion.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image: Michele Wozniak, Strongman Corporation

Comments