Hit the Infamous Fitness Plateau? Read This…


One of the main reasons why some people begin working out in the first place is to build more strength. If you’ve been working towards that goal for some time, then you’ve probably at some point hit the inevitable fitness “plateau” where your strength gains cease…it’s bound to happen at some point and it happens to everyone. Luckily, this is perfectly normal and it does not mean the end of your muscle building potential. There are numerous tips and lifting techniques that you can follow and employ to help get you past that dreaded fitness plateau.

1. The Principle of Overload simply says that a greater than “normal” stress or load is required for muscle adaptation to take place, which means you need a spotter! In order to safely push your body physically and mentally past its current potential, you must have a spotter who knows how to properly spot you during that particular exercise. Your body does not like change, therefore it will always put up defense mechanisms that inhibit you from pushing yourself past that “normal” range of stress or load that it’s unaccustomed to.

2. Employ different strength training techniques such as:

Eccentric Movements (negatives)- where you focus on slow controlled movements in the opposing direction of an exercise (the down/lowering portion of a press exercise or the returning portion of a pull exercise, etc…)

Drop Sets– where you start with a heavier load and then immediately decrease the weight so you can continue repetitions (best done on machines where you quickly lower weight)

Forced Repetitions– where you have a spotter help “force” you to complete repetitions to muscle failure or to your goal number of reps

Rest/Pause Sets– where you focus on the “sticking point” or hardest point of the movement for a particular exercise (e.g. for a flat chest press you would lower the weight to lowest point of range just above your chest without touching and then hold for a set amount of time before pressing back up)

Compound Sets- where you perform two different exercises back to back that focus on two different parts/heads of the same muscle group (e.g. doing a flat chest followed by an inclined chest fly; although both work the chest, one focuses on pectoral major and the other pectoral minor)

Super Sets- where you perform two different exercises back to back that stress two completely different muscle groups (e.g. a chest exercise followed by a back exercise)

3. Enhance Motor Neuron Unit Recruitment and Deep Muscle Fibers- our muscles are signaled to contract and perform work when our brain tells the motor neuron units in that particular muscle to activate. Depending on the type and intensity of the movement you’re performing determines the amount of motor neuron units that are recruited and the amount/type of muscle fibers that are used. To enhance motor  neuron recruitment and engage numerous deep muscle fibers perform power movements for each muscle group which adds the element of speed and intensity (e.g. instead of always doing just a plain flat chest press, try using a bosu ball to do explosive push-ups, or instead of just always doing normal back squats try doing jump squats).

4. Mix Up Your Routine- I know plenty of people where on their “chest day” they always start with flat barbell chest press…sure it’s the most fundamental chest exercise and a staple; however, it’s important to not only mix up the exercises you do, but also the order you do them in. You don’t want to always start with the same exercise for a particular muscle group. Change up the exercises you start and finish with so you can go heavier with different exercise in the beginning of your workout when you’re fresh and then lighter with different exercises towards the end of your workout.

5. Develop Proportionately- I see it all the time…more weight plates stacked on the barbell chest press than on the squat rack. Law of proportion says your upper body’s overall potential will always be limited and determined by your core and lower body strength. Most upper body movements start and stem from the core, so the stronger your core/legs the easier it will be to push and build the rest.

6. Strengthen Secondary & Stabilizer Muscles-  Secondary muscles are the smaller muscles that help perform a movement (e.g. for presses the secondary muscle is usually triceps. For pull exercises the secondary muscle is usually biceps/forearms, etc…). Makes perfect sense to me…the stronger your secondary muscles are, the easier it will be for you primary muscles to perform major movement. It’s also important to develop and strengthen stabilizer muscles, which are in all major muscle groups. These muscles help with control, form, and getting that good “squeeze.” Some ways to engage stabilizer muscles is by performing exercises on an unstable surface (like on a bosu ball or without touching the floor) and by utilizing more free weights instead of machines where the weight is on a fixed track.

If you follow these tips and techniques regularly you should have no problem pushing through those infamous plateaus. Make sure you change up your routine regularly and use all of the above mentioned training techniques with every muscle group. Now get building!!!!

Please feel free to post any questions/comments you have on the NO B.S. FITNESS blog forum, or on my Facebook business page wall for a discussion (www.facebook.com/checkfitness).

Healthy Food CAN be Cheaper than Fast Food

healthy vs junk food

One of the most prominent arguments for the cause of the obesity epidemic in the United States is the supposed higher cost of healthy food items…and I can tell you as a personal trainer and nutrition coach that I hear this excuse all the time from people; however, the reality is that most “healthy” wholesome food items are extremely affordable and can even cost less than fast foods if you plan ahead, shop smartly, and prepare your own meals for the day. Just take a look at the example comparison picture above.

What many people don’t realize is that fast foods are only cheaper than healthy foods on a per calorie basis. Healthy/wholesome food items are actually cheaper per edible gram and per average portion than fast food items. An edible gram is used by the USDA for measuring the amount of a food item that falls into one of the major food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods). Processed fast foods typically have a much lower edible portion that falls into one of the five major food groups, which is why the nutritional value is always much lower. Processed foods also lack nutrients like fiber and phytochemicals which are responsible for the release of hormones that give you the feeling of fullness and prevent you from overeating…another costly issue. The majority of Americans consume a diet that not only fails to meet the USDA’s recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, but is also an average of 1,100 calories more than their daily caloric needs. The bottom line…fast foods give you more calories for less money; however, most Americans eat way more calories than they require and still don’t meet their bodies nutritional needs.

A hypothetical example: you swing through a drive-thru or stop at a gas station to pick up a popular breakfast item like a doughnut. A glazed doughnut has roughly 240 calories and costs $1.20 and you would probably eat two donuts to feel satisfied. Did you know that a large banana has 5 grams of fiber to fill you up, is only 120 calories, and costs around $0.50/pound for 3-4 bananas, or approximately $.25 each? So if you substitute a large sweet banana for two donuts, you cut the calories to one-third, save money ($2.15 in this example), and receive tons of beneficial nutrients!

Furthermore, overeating calorie dense foods results in obesity and health complications which means costly medical bills. By eating nutritious foods and staying healthy, you’ll save money now from not overeating and in the future by preventing unnecessary medical expenses.

There are affordable healthy food options if you look for them, shop smart, and prepare your food ahead of time. Get the whole family involved so you can buy in bulk. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, on sale, and not already prepared…same goes for your proteins. Some of my personal favorites can be found year round and cost less than $0.50 per serving (1 cup). They include beans, rice, oats, apples, potatoes, bananas, and carrots. For optimal nutritional benefits, be sure to eat 4-5  servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day and 3-4 servings of whole grains.

Keep up with all my latest NO B.S. FITNESS blogs and post any comments/questions you have on the blog forum or on my Facebook business page wall Facebook.com/checkfitness for a discussion.