How do I get past a plateau?

An absolute must in overcoming plateaus is a fundamental understanding that your body is striving for homeostasis. Homeostasis is a state of balance; it is a desire for your body to stabilize its internal system with external influences. Whatever you consume in food, the body wants to burn the identical amount. If you are putting progressive loads on your muscles, the body will build it to the size or strength needed to handle the work. The body will build the capacity of your heart and lungs to match the demand you are putting on it.

This is the exact recipe to create plateaus. If the individual can understand this concept, they can utilize strategies to keep the body guessing on what is next. When the body is guessing, it is not in a plateau. Below you will find potential strategies that can help the individual avoid or overcome plateaus.

  • Modify caloric intake on a weekly or monthly basis - Eat slightly below or above maintenance caloric intake on purpose. Give your body something to think about. Be careful though that the caloric number matches your goals more days than not.
  • Train in various heart rate zones. If all you do is train in Zone 1 (65-75%MHR), your body will figure it out quickly.
  • Modify variables in your conditioning program (vary reps, sets, load, rest periods). Use progression or regression when needed.
  • Vary what type of exercise you're doing, based on your needs and goals. Running everyday bores the body.

True power is understanding that when you are training to reach specific fitness goals, you are actually irritating your body. Your body is such an incredible adaptive machine, respect the body and strategize appropriately to overcome plateaus.

Simple changes to your program will bring changes to your body and help you get past a plateau.

Your body and muscles will adapt to your workout program after a few weeks. It is important to make changes - mix it up - do something different periodically in order to continue see results.

Here are some ideas that may help you get over a plateau, get stronger or lose more weight:


  • Use a different cardio machine.
  • Try out a different program on the machine.
  • Switch the route you walk or run outdoors.
  • Mix up the speed or distance - add sprints, intervals or hills.


  • Do less repetitions/heavier weight at a slower tempo OR more repetitions/light weight and faster tempo.
  • Alternate back and forth between weights and cardio equipment in a "circuit" type workout. This keeps your heart rate elevated, therefore burning more calories.
  • Stand on one leg when doing your weights - this will engage more muscles, add balance and burn more calories.
Most people see great results in the beginning.  However later people start to notice that they are losing progress they had in the beginning and soon we all hit that plateau.  One of the main reasons people hit that plateau is they keep doing the same program over and over.  As you train your body it adapts to these changes and doesn't have to work as hard.  So frequent changes in your weight training, cardiovascular training and even your meal planning will help overcome this.  Once you reach your goal then you can stop making changes and just work on your maintance level. 
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Stress, and even some weight loss strategies, can slow weight loss and cause a plateau. Learn some ways to get past the weight loss plateau in this video with Dr. Oz.

It is probably time for a change up. Tweak your exercise program first; your body needs a little shock to get it going. Then, introduce new foods within your dietary guidelines.

Eric Beard
Sports Medicine
There is a saying, "a good personal trainer can get a client off a plateau, a great personal trainer can prevent their client from ever getting stuck on one." You don't need a personal trainer to get results. You do however need to change your program every few weeks to keep progressing towards those goals. 

Instantly applicable tips;

1) Shorten your rest periods in between sets (try 30 seconds and use a watch to keep you on target)

2) Slow the tempo down on your repetitions (make each repetition take 6 seconds)

3) Try doing exercises back to back for opposite muscle groups. This is sometimes called a compound set. For example perform a chest press followed immediately by a seated row.

4) Do 2 minutes of cardio after every 3 sets of strength training. If you are a beginner, go easy, if you are advanced then sprint!

5) Do more repetitions and fewer sets

6) Do more sets and fewer repetitions 

7) Change equipment. Try dumbbells, exercise bands, cable machines, free weights or body weight.

8) Take 3 days off. You may be over training.

The body is an amazing organism and by adjusting our workouts just a bit every few weeks we can keep it guess and adapting. This is how we get results. Provide a new stimulus to the body, let it begin to adapt, then change it. Just like in school. When we got good at addition they sprung subtraction on us, then multiplication and so on. We kept studying math, but it was progressively different.  

Good luck with your program! 
Self monitoring exercise means being aware of all the impacts and plateaus of exercise: physically and psychologically. Once you are aware of the positive impacts of exercise you can continue to move in that direction. Once you are aware of any negative impacts or plateau's of exercise you can change or rearrange them so as to move in a more positive direction. 

One helpful way to get past a plateau is to set realistic goals. The best way to set goals is using SMART goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time based. Make sure your goals are realistic. Realistic goals set you up for success. Attainment of goals helps you build confidence and motivation to continue and to add more and different exercise to your program and help get you over your plateau. 
To get past the dreaded plateau phase you have to shake up your routine.  We all go through this phase at times.  Once we get complacent in our routine the body becomes slow to change.  Think of it like a relationship that has gone stale because of expectancy and complacency.  When the relationship gets predictable it becomes boring.  Your body reacts the same way and maintains the status quo, which is not bad, but if you want to improve you have got to spice it up!

Challenge yourself with new routines and environments.  Step outside of your box and you will start losing again.  Trust me on this one.

You don't have to be a fighter to feel like one.  So let's train!


Getting past a plateau often requires you to adjust your training program, however in terms of weight loss, plateaus are often the result of a combination of nutritional and exercise factors. If you have hit a plateau as it relates to performance (developing cardio endurance, maximal strength, or power), then you will likely need to adjust your training program. Adjusting your training program can be as simple as making changes to the types of exercises you are doing, or doing a complete overhaul on the program and incorporating different workouts of various intensities in order to elicit multiple adaptations once a certain fitness level has been achieved. If you have reached a plateau in terms of weight loss, typically it means that you have lost a certain amount of weight that prevents your body from burning as many calories on a daily basis than it had previously. If this is the case, you will have to find a way to incorporate greater caloric burn throughout the day or reduce your daily caloric intake. Weight loss plateaus can also be the result of your body adapting to the same type of training than you have been applying, therefore changing your program in order to create a greater caloric demand on your body will potentially help you continue accomplishing your goals.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.