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September 5, 2023

219 | Strategies for Overcoming Weight Lifting Plateaus

After working with gen pop, college athletes and online clients, I believe there are four main types of plateaus that take place within long term strength and hypertrophy training:

  • Mental
  • Seasonal
  • Actual Physical performance
  • Muscle growth 

We’re diving into all four of these plateaus and what you can possibly implement as a coach or trainee to work through them.


I bring this up first because I think this can initiate other types of plateaus we experience in training AND can be a result of, or byproduct of other plateaus.

This is when you’re just out of it, not feeling it, in a “funk” – maybe motivation to train is lower, efficacy is lower, perhaps you even have a negative connotation with training when it’s normally something you enjoy.


Sometimes there are cycles we see once we’re training for the long haul. It could be summer for you, or maybe the fall. Finals season – some time of the year that tends to bring upon inconsistency or a lull in your training. And it throws you for a loop every time. You plateau – physically, mentally, etc.

The earlier you can get in front of this the better off you’ll be.

  • change up expectations (lower frequency or intensity) but keep modality the same
  • take on something new that you enjoy
  • Accept a maintenance phase but be intentional
  • Actually choose a new goal to work towards so you have a joyful and purposeful focus during this time.

Actual Physical performance

Strength or power output comes to mind for me. This could be with one exercise or across the board. I am thinking more across the board. Overall plateau in your performance. 

First off – this IS a sign of overtraining (not taking enough deload weeks and going from supercompensation and over-reaching to actual over-training) and/or under-recovering.

  • consider a deload week or two (lower the intensity and volume by 30%. Meaning complete 70% of the work you normally do – weight and volume. Let your body TAKE A BREAK.
  • You may even need a COMPLETE break from the gym. Yes, do less. Much less. Your body will not lose gains. In fact it might just THANK YOU.

Point of these approaches is to come back REFRESHED & RE-ENERGIZED (your mind and your body).

If it’s not a reload we need, you can look back at programming. If you’ve been doing the SAME THING (variations, sets and reps, weight etc) it might be a good time to switch things up a bit more than you normally would. 

  • Try new exercise variations or take a season to drive up work capacity (if you’ve been working near maximal loads for a hot minute).
  • Get specific – you’re plateaued. Work your weaknesses and sticking points with whatever lifts you’re currently doing.

Muscle growth 

Along the same lines as physical performance.

Nutrition is going to be a factor to evaluate here as well, though that’s not my area of expertise.

  • Take a deload (count on feeling deflated – you’ll be carrying less water in your muscles. don’t worry, it will come back upon lifting. You haven’t loss muscle with taking a week or two off).
  • Change up variation OR more specifically push range of motion.

Range of motion is HIGHLY underrated when it comes to building muscle and the potential for muscle fiber recruitment.

  • Lower the loads (I know – unexpected) and focus on creating as much TENSION as you can in the muscle groups you’re working).

Just some ideas outside of “I’m plateauing, I must need to do more” – NO Silly Susan, you probably need to DO LESS, God bless, or do different.

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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