Avoiding the Dreaded Gym Plateau

You have been training hard, things are going great, and you have made a ton of amazing progress and gains in the gym.

As time goes on you may notice all your hard work, time, and effort come to a halt. At first, you think it's alright and keep pushing, but then things start to go bad and that's where the frustration begins. Now you begin to question everything that you have been doing because all of the continued results have suddenly stopped. Now you are pissed....What did you do?....This program promised all these results?....What do you do now?

Photo credit: Johnathan Borba

Photo credit: Johnathan Borba


Usually plateaus happens because your body has adapted to the training program that you have been on. In the beginning, "newbies" will experience the most drastic change because their bodies are experiencing a new stimulus thus creating such great results in strengths and physique. Most programs should be changed consistently every 3-4 weeks (every month or so), some people can get away with something different every day. What's really concerning is talking to someone at a commercial gym and hear that they have been on the same program for 2-3 years!  

Top 3 reasons why you hit a plateau:

1. Program adaptation

2. Lack of sleep and poor nutrition

3. CNS (central nervous system) crash

Like I said before, if your training has been the same for a long period of time and things are beginning to slow down or completely halt, then things need to be switched up and shock your system again.  However, if the program is working steadily and things keep progressing, then stick with it until things slow or stop.

If you sleep habits suck, then your training will suck.  You should ideally be going to bed and getting up at around the same time every day.  The reason being, your poor sleep cycles lead to out of whack hormone in your body.  If your job "doesn't allow" it then maybe reconsider your  work life or just plain suck it up.


Your body should be treated like a high performance sports car.  You wouldn't put crappy fuel in your expensive car and potentially ruin it, so why would you put crap in your body?  Garbage food is going to give you garbage results!

CNS crash

Some of us have learned this the hard way. Sometimes less is more.  Meaning...don't be afraid to take breaks. Rest days!! Everyone needs rest days!  Over-training is another huge part of hitting plateaus.  It's no necessary to be in the gym for hours and hours at a time day after day.  You will lead to a mental and physical breakdown and pure exhaustion.  This will lead to the tear down of your immune and adrenal systems which in turn will get you sick.  

In summary, be smart with training and programming.  Make sure you're constantly switching things up, getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and most importantly not over doing it!!

Laurie Zerfass CPT

Body Elite Trainer, Laurie Zerfass

Body Elite Trainer, Laurie Zerfass

Laurie is a graduate of the University of Delaware holding a Bachelor's in Health, Behavior, and Exercise Sciences with a concentration in Fitness Management and Strength and Conditioning. She developed her passion in fitness and health from a love of sports, most notably soccer, having played in high school varsity, elite club teams, as well as the collegiate level. She's since turned that passion into her career and is now an expert in the fields of sports conditioning, functional training, weight management and nutrition.