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How To Overcome a Weight Training Plateau. The Plafaux Effect & New Muscle Gains


The “Plafaux” Effect, “Resetting”, & New Muscle Gains

No-one is immune to this. Not even me.

Every now and then we need to “reset” in order to start experiencing meaningful gains again.

What do I mean by “reset“?

There usually comes a time in your training when you experience a false plateau (“plafaux” anyone?).

But how can a training plateau be fake?

Simply because you’re actually lifting the incorrect weight for your strength.

You’ve been too keen to increase the loads you’re lifting and have introduced bad form into many of your exercises. For example, you’re:

  • not using a full range of motion
  • using way too much momentum
  • not performing the negative under muscular control
  • using a cadence that’s just too fast.

So you’ve been merrily going along, fooling yourself into thinking that your progressions in strength are just that; genuine progressions in strength.

But although you were probably getting a little stronger, much of these increased loads were as a result of introducing bad form in one of its guises.

But your sins will soon catch up with you!

After a few months you get stuck at a certain weight and can’t break past it 🙁 . Perhaps you even start to backslide and seem to lose strength for a time.

What you should do is have someone look at your form, or do it yourself. I find that periodically filming myself helps with this more than anything else.

If you notice something wrong with your form, it’s time to reset!

This is actually a good thing. People that need to reset in a certain lift almost always experience NEW gains in strength and size. Their training had been so ineffective that they were simply maintaining the muscle mass they had. The strength progressions were actually phony; only by resetting can they sort it out.

By resetting they once again recruit and stimulate all the fibers of the muscle in question. Like I said in my last article “9 Ways To Get Your Traps To Grow“, the first thing they’ll notice is that the body part gets sore again for the first time in ages.

Subsequent strength progressions are then REAL and GENUINE. The trainee can have confidence that since strength and size correlate positively, new size gains are in the bag! 😀

Easy, reduce the weight. Since you may have added too much weight in an effort to accelerate results and introduced bad form in order to move those weights, you simply need to reduce the load.

But note: This is not a backwards step!

Since you are going to be training to the limits of your REAL levels of strength, this should be seen as a step forward (even though you might bruise your ego a little from the decreased numbers). But you just need to get over it. You’re in this game to transform your body, not to boast about loads.

It’s impossible to say with absolute certainty, but I recommend you start with a 10% drop in load and see how you go.

So for someone squatting 150kg and hitting a “plafaux”, try 135kg next week. If dumbbell curling 25Kg, try 22.5kg.

Resetting is the very thing that will allow you to start progressing again and make the kind of gains you’ve been looking for!

On the other hand, if you believe you’ve hit a genuine plateau, ask yourself the following:

 Is your diet crappy? Are you getting enough protein to support the repair of your muscle tissue?

 Are you resting enough between sets?

 Are you ignoring certain lifts? When hitting one body part, other muscles are called into action to support the lift. If they are lagging behind, it’ll hamper your progress. A good example of an ignored lift is deadlifts; don’t skip them.

 Are you taking a week off every now and then to allow for full systemic recovery?

 Is there enough rest between body parts? If you hit a muscle with several sets to failure and attempt to hit it again within a few days and expect a progression, you’ll probably fail. I’ve tried it. Many others have too. That’s why a traditional 5-day split protocol works very well indeed.

 If you haven’t already, is it time to start supplementing with creatine monohydrate?

 Are you using the THT Exercise Bank to vary your workouts? While changing your routine too often is actually a bad move, there is a time to change things up. However, use only the best exercises for each body part, and only swap a compound movement for another compound movement, and an isolation exercise for another isolation exercise. Let the THT Exercise Bank take care of this for you.

 Are you switching between THT Volume 1, Volume 2, and HIT routines every 10 weeks?

So whether it’s a “plafaux” or a plateau, you now know what to do to SMASH through it and experience new GAINS in both strength and size.

Train With 100% Intensity!

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  1. Zac

    So relevant to me right now. I’m going to concentrate on my form again and not obsess about always making a gain every set. Think I’ve hit a plafaux on the chest press and bicep curl. Yep, my ego was hit hard dropping weight (feels like quitting) so thanks for saying that it is smart to take the ego hit and drop weight and do it right. Great article, thanks Mark.

  2. Shane

    Me too zac! This made me rethink some of my lifts and it’s good to know I’m not the only one and it’s ok to reset!! Thanks for a great article Mark.

  3. Andrew Mast

    I can lift much heavier on a 5×5 program, like StrongLifts.com. BUT, if I’m going to focus on pure hypertrophy, which is the target of THT, I need to follow the THT guidelines…. and focus on the muscle contractions, not the weight being lifted. With strength training, in a few weeks, I can squat over 250 pounds for 5×5 reps. On THT, I’m doing more like 160 for 8-12. It’s just the nature of the type of muscle development. So, as long as my goal is to grow (not get tons stronger), then I focus on THT, it works.

  4. Shariq

    Hey Mark, Since long time I made you my virtual GURU in body-building,
    I followed THT-book 4, but since last two months I got a shape n feels muscular day-by-day but my weight stuck 🙁 … I am not gaining weight, Is it the reason what you mentioned in the above article?

  5. Tbone

    This is a great article and timely. Just today I decided I
    needed to reset but was feeling bruised about it. Mind you, I ended
    up having the best workout in ages.

  6. Lourcey

    This article came just in time for me.
    For the past two weeks I’ve been loosing weight (on the bar). I’ve been doing the tht three day split for about 9 weeks, and gained about 30 pounds on bench press. Then last week I just couldn’t get the reps and was sore all the time, so I think it’s time for a week off.
    And a major adjustment in diet!

  7. jason

    Ive actually just started doing that this week as its my 1st week on the new 5 day-split. after the mass phase i did find that i was sacrificing form to beat my previous record. Funny how it creeps in without you knowing it.

    thanks mark for the reset post.

  8. beto

    when resetting mark what rep range to you recommend?
    great article thanks mark!

  9. John A Davis

    Good stuff. I, too, am guilty of all the above.

  10. graham

    Hi Mark,
    Another gret post!

    I am currently writing an article that would compliment this one. I am away at the moment but will be back next week. If you’re interested in my article and want me to post it, or want to view it first then just get in contact with me.

  11. Graham

    HI Mark,
    Another great post!

    I am currently writing an article that might compliment this one. If you want me to post it or you want to view it first, just get in touch.
    I am away at the moment but will be back next week.

  12. Mike Huber

    It’s great to reset. Like i just had to. You get a much better workout and it helped to ease my ego from having to drop weight on workouts. I mentally focus on the muscles moving the weight. when i get to max. rep on a certain workout, i add a little weight, 2.5 to 5 lbs. as not to loose form and keep full range of motion. A very good read and Thanks Mark!!
    @John A Davis-How did the home made ice cream turn out? Just curious.

  13. John A Davis

    @Mike Huber
    Mark set me up to post an article about this.
    I made the first version, just protein, no fat, or carbs.
    Amusing at best.

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