Frank Zane’s Strategies To Bust Through Muscle Plateaus

Frank Zane relaxing in the gym
Frank Zane's Strategies To Bust Through Muscle Plateaus

As a beginner you can get away with a lot of mistakes and still keep progressing for the first year or two. But as you begin to transition from a newbie to a seasoned lifter you’ll realize the need to switch up the variables in your training routine to keep making steady progress in your muscle and strength journey.

You might find yourself pushing hard to lift heavier weights and wondering why you can’t seem to progress. If you’ve hit a wall and are stagnating it’s a sign that your body has become smarter than you in adapting to your workouts without the need to grow. It’s time to change up the variables to put your body in progress mode again.

Follow these tips to bust through your lifting plateaus and start growing again:

1. SWITCH UP THE EXERCISES

If you been starting your chest day with the flat bench press every single time for the past two years then it’s time to switch it up. When your body and nervous system know exactly what to expect when you start training, then then they figure out how to perform the lift in the most efficient manner; that is, without having to use as many muscle fibers and without the need to grow and adapt.

This is bad news for you if you want to keep growing. Switch up the exercise to force your body to recruit as much muscle fiber as possible in executing the movement. Instead of the flat bench press start with the incline bench press or the dumbbell incline bench press. Switching exercises like this will also yield more testosterone response.

 2. SWITCH UP THE ORDER OF THE EXERCISES

This is similar to tip number 1 above. If your order of exercises is flat bench press, incline bench press, dumbbell bench press, flyes and then dips, switch up the order of these exercises.

Do The barbell incline bench press or the dumbbell bench press first and switch around the rest of the exercises too. This will reset your training routine and keep your body guessing.

3. INCREASE TRAINING INTENSITY

If you’ve gotten into the habit of going through the motions at the gym, then it’s time to increase the focus and intensity in your training to shock your body into growth.

Utilize intensity techniques such as drop sets, forced reps and supersets for a few weeks to shock your body into new growth.

4. DECREASE TRAINING INTENSITY

If you’ve been going too hard for too long then you might just need to step off the gas a little bit.

Going hard and intense for long periods of time without taking some time off or having a de-load week is a recipe for overtraining and a plateau.

Take a week off completely and start back up the next week with decreased intensity, slowly building the intensity back up. Or, train with low intensity for two weeks and then build the intensity back up.

5. CHANGE UP YOUR REP-RANGE

Different types of muscle fibers and motor units are recruited in different rep ranges. You don’t want to exhaust one rep range and not train in the other rep ranges.

Vary your rep range around using 4-6 rep, 6-8 rep, 8-10 rep and 10-12 rep schemes. You might even find that your body responds better to a different rep range than the one you had previously been sticking to for a while.

6. CHANGE UP YOUR REST-TIME

If you take short rests of around 1 minute, then rest 2-3 minutes.  If you tend to rest longer, then decrease your rest time to increase the intensity of your training.

You might need to coordinate your rest time with the rep-range that you perform. You’ll need to rest a little longer for the lower rep range, maybe even 3-4 minutes. You should rest 2-3 minutes for the medium rep range and 1-2 minutes for the higher rep range.

7. SLOW DOWN YOUR TEMPO

Most gym goers have a natural training tempo that they instinctively follow. If you’re a conscious lifter then you might have a good tempo where you lower the weight in a steady controlled manner and drive it back up.

But if you’re stuck in a plateau, then change the speed in which you lower the weight by slowing down the negative portion of your lift to 4-5 seconds, pause, and then explosively drive the weight back.

8. CHANGE UP YOUR TRAINING SPLIT

If you’ve been training chest / triceps and back /biceps for years now, it’s time to change up your training split. Switch up your routine to chest / back or chest biceps.

You should change up your training splits every 10 weeks. You should also switch up the days on which you train the muscle groups.

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