Simple Tips for a Stronger Workout
More Plateau Busting Ideas
The first year or two that people work out, progress tends to be rather dramatic. It can seem like every other week you're setting new personal records. But eventually growth slows and for many can even stop. You may still be trying just as hard, but you've hit a wall and all the things that helped before stopped working.
To get past that plateau, I'd like to share some of the things that have helped my clients. These are simple actions that make a profound difference. (Only do these things if you're maintaining perfect form. Try to "cheat" and you risk injuring yourself and setting your program back by months or more.)
Before you start a set, grab the bar that's holding the weight and squeeze it, hard! Hold that grip for about five seconds, let go and relax for five seconds, then immediately begin your set.
What happens when you grip the bar is the muscles all over your body tighten up with your hands. Then when you start to lift, that brief grip has reminded you to keep your entire body tight. By engaging all your muscles, you're able to lift more, maintain better form and increase muscle growth.
When you start any lift, look at your wrists. If they're rolling back, you're losing stability. Keep your wrists straight and it'll make the lift easier, so you can add weight. People who have poor wrist control should try some hand grip exercises to increase their strength.
During your lifts, squeeze the bar tight and you send a message to your body to increase the strength. It's also a great way to work on imbalances. If you find one side of your body is weaker than the other, only squeeze your grip on the weak side. That tends to give you an extra little boost on that side to get you through the movement. Over time I've seen that trick help people with significant imbalances develop better symmetry.
Some people can't move forward because of a mental block. I had one client that made incredible progress on the weight bench, eventually moving up to a 45-pound plate on each side. But once that level was reached, he hit a wall and couldn't seem to move any further. He could complete 8 reps with perfect form, but if I added something as small as a 2.5 pound weight, he suffered complete failure. He was unable to do even one rep.
If you're facing a problem like that, change the weights you put on the bar. I loaded his bar up with a 25 pound plate, two 10's and a 5 on each side. (Add it up and you realize that's 50 pounds on each side.) It didn't look as intimidating. Because the bar appeared lighter his brain didn't register it as being that heavy. He was able to complete 8 reps with perfect form the very first time.
If you feel yourself fading during a workout, try a cooling trick. Grab a cold water bottle and press it against the palms of your hands. Hold it there for 90 to 120 seconds. The object is to cool your body's core temperature.
The hotter you are, the less work you can accomplish. During a workout your core heats up. By pressing something cool against the palms of your hands, your body dissipates heat through the specialized blood vessels called arteriovenous anastomoses and your core temperature drops. Humans have a heavy concentration of those heat dissipating vessels in the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet.
Just make sure not to put ice packs directly against the skin or keep holding the cold object for too long. If you do, the blood vessels will start to constrict (get smaller) as a way to preserve body heat. That can actually increase your core temperature and it's the opposite of what you're trying to accomplish.
The next time you feel stuck, try these tips and move to the next level.
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