This is the fourth article I wrote for NB&F magazine, which appeared in the November 2010 issue
I stated in one of my previous articles that bodybuilding is as much about breaking through psychological barriers as it is physical ones. When I initially wrote that I was referring to one’s ability to make their body do something it doesn’t want to do (body follows the mind). It also pertains, however, to the concept of plateaus, which is what I would like to focus on here. When you’ve been training for 10-20 years or more, it is inevitable that you are going to encounter plateaus with your training. It is crucial that you are able to find a way around these sticking points in order for you to continue making your physique progress. The longer you’ve trained and the more your physique progresses towards your ultimate potential, the harder it is to continually make gains. You have to be willing to sacrifice much more, be more detailed and more disciplined even in order to attain the smallest marginal differences. One of the most important aspects of breaking through these barriers is to recognize the difference between a physical and psychological barrier. Physical barriers, while annoying, are much easier to work around once identified. An example of this is not being able to attain a new personal best at a given lift in terms of weight or reps. It’s not that your workouts aren’t necessarily optimal. You may just need an extra day of rest, a change in volume (sets or reps) or modification to your workout split. Personal records are only one indication of progress, but should not be overly weighted. You can continue to stimulate growth of muscle fibers with effective workouts in which you don’t necessarily outperform yourself each time.
A much trickier obstacle to get around is the psychological plateau. This is when your mind becomes desensitized to the ordinary stimuli. Every competitor has experienced being in a rut at some point. Not having the usual excitement to hit the gym, frustration with lack of drive and inability to equal usual workout intensity are typical symptoms of what is otherwise termed as feeling “burned out”. This is arguably a much harder problem to deal with and requires one to step outside his/herself and establish an objective perspective on their own methodology. This kind of psychological barrier is generally caused by a feeling of monotony. Bodybuilders are notorious for being creatures of habit. Our days follow a similar pattern, which provides structure. This is a good thing 99% of the time. Now and again, however, it becomes the enemy! When you sense this is happening, it’s time to start changing EVERYTHING up. You need a new structure or outline to your day to break the monotony. You need to make both big structural changes and changes in small minor details. Anything to refresh your mindset: Change your workout time, change your meals up, design a completely different workout split, get new music on your ipod, try working out at a different gym, trying working out with someone who can challenge you in a different way, incorporate new types of physical challenges (tire flipping, martial arts, stadium steps…anything different from what you usually do), invent new pre-workout rituals. The bottom line is that you can’t continue to get effective results from a routine that your body and mind has become overly accustomed to. There are limited opportunities to make an impact on your physique before you step onstage again. Don’t allow yourself to be the victim of psychological monotony for another day. Refresh your daily routine and walk into the gym with a vengeance so you can make every workout count!!!