Plateau - How to Overcome It Faster While Building Muscle

How do you overcome a plateau while bodybuilding? During week five, March 08, 2020, of my muscle gain journey, I focused on overcoming a plateau.  I had a great week, according to my Saturday measurements.

At this point, I have reached a plateau. When a plateau is reached, muscle size and strength converge and correlate. This means that strength increases at the same level as muscle size. 

You can use your diet and sleep to overcome a plateau while bodybuilding.

Diet and sleep are anabolic activities that are critical to breaking above a plateau. You can’t just work your body through a plateau while bodybuilding. You have to give your body something to work with. You must be a giver (diet and sleep) at this game level. It would be best to use a low carbohydrate, high protein diet to increase muscle size without causing too much body fat. 

I began tracking my sleep with an application called Pillow. The quantity and quality of sleep matter. The four factors determining sleep quality are awake, REM, light, and deep sleep time. Deep sleep is the most important because that is where HGH and other hormones are produced. Deep sleep is where your body acts like a computer shutting down for upgrades.

I am a compound lifter because of my age, goals, and needs. A workout should be personalized because of body type, genetics, medical, and behaviors. There is no perfect, right, or wrong workout. There are only workouts your body responds to or does not.

This week I added some isometric lifts to help overcome the plateau I encountered while bodybuilding. Initially, I thought I would keep the status quo, but I second-guessed myself. Why not focus more on the chest and legs during the week?

How to use measurements to overcome a plateau 

This week’s measurements were focused on my diet, sleep, and appearance to help overcome the plateau I encountered while bodybuilding. The challenging thing about putting on muscle is putting on fat.

The best way to build muscle is to eat a 200 to 500-calorie surplus. The more you eat, the higher percentage of body fat you put on and the less muscle you put on. Food is just like us; it comes in all sizes. I started measuring my meals on a food scale. The size of a chicken breast determines its calories, not the nutrition facts.

Food producers don’t weigh every chicken breast or try to make them the same amount of calories. The more muscle you want to gain, the more critical and precise you have to be with your diet. Overcoming a plateau while bodybuilding is about making tradeoffs. You have to give something to get something.

A person who wants a six-pack must cut sugars and process foods and carbs out of their diet.

If you can’t give up those things, forget about a six-pack. Some people accept a little body fat to enjoy sugar, processed foods, and carbs.

Sleep has always been challenging for me. I am a person who can live off of 4 hours of sleep, but this is not good. Sleep provides rest and helps you to overcome a plateau while bodybuilding. I decided to use Melatonin to increase my sleep and the type of sleep. Melatonin is a supplement that can be found in most vitamin stores.

Another thing I did was go to bed one hour earlier. According to Pillow, I spent 9 hours and 13 minutes in bed and 7 hours and 14 minutes sleeping. My sleep quality was 70%, while I spent 22% of the time awake, 14% REM, 36% light, and 28% deep sleep. There are opportunities for me to grow with my sleep. I intend to focus on my wake time and deep sleep next week.

I was supposed to take a photo during week four of my journey to compare it with my old picture. To truly change your body, you must become an expert on your body – know what it needs and how to change it. The traditional measurements are tremendous, but the industry only recommends them because they can monetize them. A picture says a thousand words. None of the conventional measurements tell you everything you need to know as a photo does.

After Saturday’s improvements with the squats and shoulder press, I intend to focus more on my diet, sleep, and isometric work.

I am close to my ceiling, so the margin of error is slim. You will need every edge you can get in and out of the gym to reach your potential. The first few weeks of a workout are always comfortable and fun because your body responds to almost anything you do. But around week six, when everything begins to converge, you must know what you are doing and do it with a purpose or goal in mind.

So my adjustments for week six are to sleep, eat better, add isometrics, and track them as my life depends on it. The tradeoff to getting bigger muscles is to watch, think, and make adjustments. You will not get bigger muscles if you can’t do that. How badly do you want it becomes the question? You are reading about it, so you want it bad enough to track the hell out of everything in sight. 

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By Terry Clark

Terry Clark, M.S. is a math professor, certified fitness trainer, nutritionist, bodybuilding coach, writer, and fitness enthusiast. Terry loves working out, math, music, chess, cooking, writing, and teaching.