Breaking Plateaus

You’ve tried switching up your workout routine, but your body composition is staying the same. Every lifter whether advanced or novice has hit a plateau in the gym at some point.

Two concepts, progressive overload and time under tension are methods you should incorporate into your training. They have been found to stimulate more muscle growth when added into standard training regimens.

Time under tension training refers to the amount of time a muscle is placed under stress. In this case, we are primarily focused with the eccentric or “negative” part of an exercise. For example, if an an individual is bench pressing, then lowering the barbell to your chest portion of the exercise should be slowed down. An ideal time to shoot for is around 3-4 seconds. Several studies show that this method of training can stimulate more muscle growth than if a lifter chooses to lift for a simple 1 second eccentric movement.

Progressive overload refers to the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training. In this case, the “stress” we are referring to is the amount of weight you are choosing to lift. For example, in order to increase your 1RM in the bench press, an individual should gradually increase the amount of weight he or she can lift either weekly or biweekly. A normal individual who is not concerned with strength should be focused on the increase of hypertrophic gains that comes with building strength. When focusing on building strength in your compound lifts (bench press, squat, dead lift, weighted pull ups, etc.) you are focusing on building muscle as well. Progressive overload such as adding 2.5 lbs or 10 lbs to your bench press each month has profound effects on building muscle. Several studies  show that regimens that increase in weight either weekly, bi weekly, or monthly have been shown to yield higher hypertrophic gains than if the individual decided to use the same weight consistently.

Try using these two methods of training in tandem to maximize your gains.


Burd, N. A., Andrews, R. J., West, D. W., Little, J. P., Cochran, A. J., Hector, A. J., … Phillips, S. M. (2012). Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. The Journal of Physiology, 590(Pt 2), 351–362.

Mangine, G. T., Hoffman, J. R., Gonzalez, A. M., Townsend, J. R., Wells, A. J., Jajtner, A. R., … Stout, J. R. (2015). The effect of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men. Physiological Reports, 3(8), e12472.

Peterson, M. D., Pistilli, E., Haff, G. G., Hoffman, E. P., & Gordon, P. M. (2011). Progression of volume load and muscular adaptation during resistance exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 111(6), 1063–1071.

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