3 Ways to Break Through Your Weight Lifting Plateau

You’re an athlete, or a retired athlete, who still likes a good burn. You’re in a rec center, or a crossfit box or a weight room. You’re getting stronger, sweating, staying fit. But like every lifter in the history of time, you’ve hit a plateau. You approach the bar, engage the weight, but you can’t complete the lift. So how do you continue your pursuit to get stronger? Below, find three ways to kick your plateau and make gains again.

Take Your Time
It’s not what you want to hear, but Velaasa shoe consultant and owner of Indiana-based Force Fitness and Performance Wil Fleming says that you need to stop, slow down and lift mindfully.

“The big challenge and the cool thing about weightlifting is that there’s endless ability to achieve technical improvement,” Wil says. “Staying safe in the weight room is about understanding where you have limitations. Don’t exceed those limitations until you’ve put in the required time and work, all under a watchful eye.”

When you initially learn a new lift or new technique, it’s common to see immediate strength improvement. Your early achievements are mostly all neurological. In the next stage of lifting, you need to take time to help maximize your central nervous system. If you’re unable to get a lift, drop back, go lighter, work your technique for 4-6 weeks, and then try again.

Pinpoint Your “Symptoms”
If you can’t complete a movement successfully, like the snatch or clean and jerk, it’s because there’s something going wrong with your form. Break down your movement. Did you receive the bar in the landing position? Did your feet go up and down in the same space, through the entire lift? Pinpoint your symptoms and start to diagnose your problem. Common symptoms of a failed lift include:

  • Poor starting position
  • Poor arm action later in the lift
  • Jumping forward with the bar 
  • Poor balance

Fix Your Mental Gap
While technique certainly plays a critical role in lifting heavier weight, positive self talk (and the right mantra) can be equally as important. According to Wil, when it comes to Olympic lifts, you only have time to think about one thing at the start of the lift and one thing through the movement.

Next time your approach the bar, try telling yourself these two, quick points:

1. Keep your feet on the floor. Tell yourself: “Whole foot, whole time.”
2. Keep your back flat and maintain good posture. Tell yourself: “Chest up.”

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