Back to top
August 01, 2019

How to Break Your Plateau

Fitness First USA

“Eight years,” Alan replied when I asked him how long he’d been doing his current routine.


I gasped internally so I wouldn’t hurt his feelings.  Alan had been trying to lose weight and gain muscle, but he plateaued in his current routine and was stuck in a rut. He was a victim of his own routine and lack of variety. He needed a change, but wasn’t sure how he could get a better workout in and meet his goals. 


 The world is full of folks like Alan. They have consistency, but lack a plan of attack; going about their workouts in a cookie cutter way. Alan needed to shed about 20 pounds of fat and the machine circuit and slow-paced walking on the treadmill was getting him nowhere fast! 


The Plan


If you have plateaued too and need a quick fix, weight training coupled with a different kind of intense cardio is the key. This works equally well for those needing to drop 25 or more pounds, or those wanting to gain muscle while cutting the last bit of fat. You need to get out of your rut with cardio acceleration. 


Cardio acceleration is a technique which keeps the heart rate up between sets while weight training. An example of this would be doing three sets of bench presses and after each set, rack the weight and immediately jog briskly in place for one minute. When the minute is up, it’s right back to the next set of bench presses.


These are some exercises you can do for cardio acceleration: jumping jacks, sprinting, step-ups, kettle bell swings or high knees. You continue this process of cardio acceleration between the sets of all your exercises, resting only as you set up each new exercise. This workout will encourage weight loss while still giving your muscles the stimulation and intensity to get them stronger and bigger!


Sample Workouts


A full-body workout is great for beginners or advanced lifters crunched for time.  For a full explanation of why full-body workouts are a great alternative, see our article, “Why You Need to be Doing Full Body Training”. A sample 2–3 day a week workout would look something like this:


  • Bench press (chest and arms) 3 sets of 12 reps/Cardio acceleration


  • Lat pull-down (back and arms) 3 sets of 12 reps/Cardio acceleration


  • Cable row (back and arms) 3 sets of 12 reps/Cardio acceleration


  • Dumbbell shoulder press (shoulders) 3 sets of 12/Cardio acceleration


  • Squat or Leg Press(legs) 3 sets of 12 rep/Cardio acceleration


  • Bicep curls (arms) 3 sets of 12 reps/Cardio acceleration


  • Tricep pushdown (arms) 3 sets of 12 reps/Cardio acceleration


  • Crunches (core)/Cardio acceleration


Split routines where you are in the gym 4 or 5 days a week working different body parts, is even better when paired with cardio acceleration for weight loss. If you keep the intensity up, you will see results in as little as 4 to 6 weeks.  I always use a split routine paired with cardio acceleration when I’m trying to cut quickly.  If you have a significant amount of weight to lose, add 20-30 minutes of regular cardio at the end of the workout. 


Any split routine workout will work fine; however, I prefer to keep the focus on compound movements like bench presses, deadlifts, squats, barbell rows and overhead presses. Adding in isolation exercises near the end of your routine for lagging body parts is great if you have time. If muscle gain is your goal, keep your cardio to a minimum outside the gym and keep your protein intake to a least 1 gram per pound of body weight. 



The Supporting Cast


This routine is quick and demanding and your body will need a complex variety of vital nutrients to function well. Along with a healthy diet, it’s important to have a post-workout supplement that will help your body rebuild and reset for the next workout. Becoming deficient in any nutrient will cause your metabolic pathways to breakdown and your performance will suffer!


Your post-workout period is a critical time for making sure your get the protein, amino acids, glucose and creatine you need to recover quickly and keep up your endurance. Research shows the first 60 minutes after you complete your workout is the best time to take in protein, branch chained amino acids and creatine.  


You will need 20-40 grams in a protein shake along with your post-workout supplement. If you find you are dragging before your workouts or that your cardio acceleration is lacking intensity, look into adding a pre-work drink too. Many are based on caffeine or other stimulants, so be careful with other caffeine in your diet. Many also include B vitamins for extra metabolism support.  


Cardio acceleration, paired with eating well and using the proper pre and post workout nutrients, is the perfect plan to break through your plateau!