Hitting a plateau, or in other words, having your training progress come to a screeching halt, is probably one of the most feared and frustrating events a bodybuilder can ever experience. There isn’t anyone on this planet who wants to work extremely hard at something and not show signs of improvement. This is especially true when it comes to such a demanding lifestyle as bodybuilding. Becoming stagnant with your training will surely lead to frustration—a feeling that undercuts the level of fulfillment you hope to enjoy from bodybuilding. The mounting frustration, if not quickly alleviated, will eventually overwhelm you. Becoming overwhelmed is the primary reason many lifters stop training altogether. Unfortunately, too many bodybuilders quit due to the frustration caused by a merely perceived lack of progress. With this disempowering perception, they can only muster a halfhearted effort—at best—as a way of protecting themselves from experiencing the pain. This situation occurs whether or not the person realizes what is happening. This is usually the time when you start hearing some natural bodybuilders complain about poor genetics or being hardgainers, or it’s the time when they become convinced what they hoped to accomplish with their physiques is impossible because they don’t use drugs. Plateaus are definitely things to be avoided. In my opinion, they can be. The way to do so is by reexamining how you currently define a plateau and start thinking big!
Plateaus are oftentimes mistakenly perceived as the following pitfalls in our thinking:
1. We are not being persistent enough in finding the answers to our training challenges that, if discovered, will propel us into higher levels of development.
2. We really are getting results—but they just aren’t visible to us at the time.
3. We make unrealistic and/or unfair comparisons between ourselves and other bodybuilders.
4. We are not being creative enough to uncover new, exciting, and unique
ways to enjoy the entire spectrum of fulfillment bodybuilding has to offer.
5. We don’t realize we are growing in ways that are more important than physical growth.
Persistence Is Needed to Find Better Strategies
Bodybuilders say to me such things as, “I just can’t figure out how to get my shoulders to grow! I’ve tried so many different routines and nothing seems to work.” “Exactly how many is so many?” I ask them. Normally, if they reply honestly, they have actually tried no more than three or four different routines—at most. There are many more ways to train shoulders than just three or four. I know that you and I would never stop trying after only three or four different routines—and then blame our lack of improvement on a training plateau, would we?
As a drug-free bodybuilder, you will more than likely mature at an older age (in your mid-thirties or older). Don’t just assume you’ll become outstanding when that time rolls around if you aren’t persistent enough to put in enough time, effort, and intelligence into your training efforts today.
You May Really Be Getting Results
Stop and think about your situation for a moment. Can your progress ever really stop if you are consistently putting forth your best effort? If you are training with any type of regularity and intensity, and supporting that training with sound nutritional practices, you can rest assured you are not really stagnant—regardless of what you may think. (If you are not putting in this degree of effort, then you now realize you are not hitting a plateau.) Oftentimes, you will be improving even when you don’t necessarily feel you are.
One of my favorite illustrations of what I am explaining comes from motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. In his story “Primin’ the Pump,” Ziglar talks about a man who goes to an old-fashioned well to pump some drinking water. The man pushes the pump’s lever over and over again, and is seemingly making no progress whatsoever. The man is indeed making progress, however; it just isn’t visible to him at the time. Deep in the underground pipes, suction is being created and is slowly siphoning the water to the surface. If he gets discouraged and stops pumping, the water will fall again—and he’ll have to start all over. If he is persistent, the man will eventually see results from his efforts and enjoy a surging flow. At this point, he’ll no longer need to pump as hard because now only a little force produces enough water to equal ten times the effort he gave at the beginning.
Sometimes it feels as though you are putting ten times the effort into your training than you seem to be getting in improvements. But, if you are persistent, you will enjoy the benefits of bodybuilding that could be ten times greater than the effort you invest—just like the man who was primin’ the pump. You just never know. Another problem may be that you see yourself too often to truly appreciate your progress. Have you ever had a friend who hasn’t seen you in a while tell you how muscular you’ve become? That friend’s perception is probably a little more accurate than yours. Oftentimes, we become our own worst enemies. The same drive that motivates us to become our very best sometimes makes us too tough on ourselves—like a double-edged sword.
If you keep pressing yourself to train harder and to learn more, you never know when a big payoff in significant muscle mass will occur. One thing is certain, however: You will not see the results you want if you stop giving 100 percent of your effort, get frustrated, or quit.
Making Unfair Comparisons to Others
One of the biggest tragedies in bodybuilding occurs when we are winning but feel as though we are losing. I had a training partner who was no better than average when we first began working out together. Within months, his physique dramatically improved and the amount of weight he tackled increased by at least 30 percent. He was initially ecstatic about his progress and set the ambitious goal of winning the drug-tested Musclemania Bodybuilding Championships later that year. Unfortunately, his excitement didn’t last very long. His gains did not come as quickly as he wanted and he became discouraged. He never was motivated when he looked in the bodybuilding magazines—they often made him depressed. Although he had been training for only about three years (with just a small portion of that at a maximum intensity level), he wanted a great physique now. “I get so down when I look in the magazines, Skip!” he confessed. “I look at those guys and the only thing I think is that I don’t look like that.” He was being terribly unfair to himself by making such comparisons. The bodybuilders in the magazines more than likely had at least twice as much training experience. In addition, most of their years of training had probably been as focused as his few intense months. We no longer train together, as other things in his life now have a higher priority. He no longer has dreams of winning a national show or being featured in an international magazine. Bodybuilding, which for a short time brought him so much pride, fulfillment, accomplishment and optimism, is no longer an interest. He had been winning the game in a big way, in my opinion, but felt as though he was losing.
Enjoy More of the Excitement Bodybuilding Has to Offer
The truth is you can never really plateau when it comes to bodybuilding because there are countless exciting facets in this complex lifestyle to enjoy! Here’s a unique way to break through any plateau you feel you’re experiencing: Fall in love with bodybuilding! Take your passion for our sport to a whole new level. Make it much more than a fun hobby or a passing interest. “What do you mean, La Cour? I already love to train, eat a lot of protein, and read the magazines every month!” many of you might be thinking. Reducing this lifestyle/sport of bodybuilding to simply working out, eating right, and thumbing through its publications is like saying the Louvre in Paris has a few interesting paintings! You are robbing yourself of tons of stimulation available for you to enjoy.
• Plan A Trip To A National Contest
• Plan A Trip To The Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic
• Plan A Trip To The Mr. Olympia Contest
• Research And Find The Highest-Quality Supplements For The Best Price
• Order A Bodybuilding Book To Increase Your Level Of Knowledge
• Read A Book On Motivation
• Choose A Role Model To Help You In Your Bodybuilding Efforts
• Learn Everything You Can About Your Favorite Bodybuilder
• Learn More About The History And Legends Of Bodybuilding
• Enter A Bodybuilding Contest
• Volunteer To Help Run A Local Bodybuilding Contest
• Set The Goal Of Getting Pictured In A Bodybuilding Magazine
• Start A Bodybuilding Internet Business
You May Be Getting More Than Just a Better Body
Many lifters focus strictly on the physical or aesthetic qualities of the bodybuilding lifestyle. When a person doesn’t see continual muscle growth when he looks into the mirror, he may automatically assume his improvements have either slowed down considerably or have stopped altogether. However, the growth you are achieving in bodybuilding goes far beyond merely developing big muscles. The courage, discipline, passion, confidence, connection, and many more human qualities this lifestyle creates are much more significant to your total quality of life. Maybe they are making you a better student or employee. Maybe those attributes are making you a better father, mother, son, or daughter. Bodybuilding could be enriching your life for many more years to come—so stick with it and work through those illusionary plateaus!