One feeling which can unite practically everyone who works out is the concept of the plateau.
It can — and does — happen to everyone, from seasoned weight-lifters to novice exercisers. What exactly do we mean by this? Well, as anyone who has spent some time in the gym can attest, the initial improvements your body undertakes with a serious and committed exercise regime will become evident very quickly. Even with a haphazard workout plan, so long as you’re doing it correctly you will begin to notice your body developing as quickly as two or three weeks into your new routine.
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The danger is that we can become too comfortable with our system as it stands and unwilling to move to different muscle groups, or to deviate from the plan that has worked until this point. Unfortunately, this can manifest in the results your body gets from your hard work. There may be noticeable gains from the sweat you spill in the gym but one day, if you are not alternating your workouts, your physique will reach its very own high-water mark. This is the dreaded plateau.
There is a way to combat this, however. If your goal is hypertrophy (aka muscle growth), you will need to adapt your routine to beat the plateau to get further, more robust results.
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How to achieve hypertrophy
As a general rule, the best way to achieve maximum muscle growth (one you have identified the correct weight) is to attempt 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps, allowing for 30 to 90 seconds rest in between. What this will do is achieve mechanical tension, micro-damage and the metabolic stress required to give yourself the best chance to grow your Type II muscle fibres — which have the highest potential for growth.
The issue with this tactic, though, is that it can lead you to forgetting about your Type I muscle fibres. While they are smaller and less powerful, they can be grown too and are important to a well-rounded physique (using free weights are a good place to start).
What’s the plan?
Along with your regular plan, add some low-weight & high-rep weights into your schedule for each of the major muscle groups. Aim for 3 sets of around 15 reps with no more than 30 seconds rest in between, which will target the more difficult to work out fibres and leave you with a full-body workout.