Thursday, January 21, 2010

Why Do We Plateau In Our Work Outs

This is a brief explanation of why after a while, we stop seeing results in our work out routines.

Our bodies will always try to maintain an constant state of balance, and in doing so it has a exceptional ability to adapt to any changes or environments it's exposed to, such as exercise. Once the body has adapted to the exercise that's being performed, it has no reason to continue to change (muscle development and fat loss). It is in this time of adaptation and halting of any physical and physiological change that is called an exercise plateau. These plateaus are very common among frustrated gym members who appear to be exercising for long periods of time, yet see no body composition change or worse, sometimes they gain weight (fat gain). This leads to loss of motivation, the kiss of death basically.

For an individual to decrease body fat, they must maintain a negative energy balance forcing a loss of fat to occur. Basically using more calories than they are taking in. As one begins a work out program, a caloric loss has begun via the initial calories being expended through exercise and all the physiological changes that occur to adapt to this new change.

These adaptations include:

• Increased motor unit recruitment (coordination)
• Decrease in resting heart rate
• Increase in mitochondrial density (muscle tissue)
• Body fat reduction
• Weight loss

As an individual continues the same work out program for a series of weeks, the above adaptations have occurred and the calories used to produce these changes are no longer being used (your body is more efficient at these exercises and needs less calories to do them). The work out themselves become easier to perform due to these adaptations, so another decrease in the number of calories burned during exercise. This is the body's way of closing the caloric gap created by the initial work out and maintain a state of balance, plateauing is the end result. The body does not want to lose calories! It's a way to preserve itself.

As mentioned earlier, for you to lose body fat you must maintain a caloric loss, either by increasing calories burned (exercise), decrease caloric intake (food) or a combination of both. For the calories burned component, it is important that you use a variety of training methods in manipulating your exercise program in a systematic fashion to provide a new stimulus to adapt to. If you have no training methods, then that is a bigger issue. Change can come in the form of changing variables, exercises, planes of motion, sensory change in a resistance training program or in duration, frequency, intensity, and mode of manipulation (treadmill, rowing machine, stair climber, track, etc) in a cardiorespiratory program.

These are the reasons why most health club and gym rats fail on their own and people with trainers statistically succeed more often. Not only to have someone to teach you, help you, support you, push you harder than you would yourself, but a coach knowledgeable enough to constantly update and refine your work out program so plateaus do not occur. Dieting is great but even with the risk of plateau, nothing creates better change than change that is exercise based.

If you are ready to break though the plateau through an evidence based program, I am here to show you how.
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