There comes a time in everyone’s training journey when we stop making gains. Most people start looking for the next best thing whether it be another spin-off high-intensity training or lift-heavy every day, a better strategy would be to seek the help of a professional.
With an absolute wealth of resources available at places like Testosterone Nation or Elitefts, taking a small amount of time to understand why your progress has stopped will allow you to start taking inventory as to what might be going wrong with your training.
What’s included in this list does NOT include the obvious measures like aerobic work, GPP work, or using a Conjugate Plan – things I’ve talked about numerous times. Instead, I’m assuming you’ve already that read that material and have considered those things first. If not, that would be the best place to start as those are likely the solution to your lack of progress.
Either way, these strategies are worth considering and will at the very least allow you to start thinking about things you can control. If all else fails though, you have a choice of a long list of great online programming services to help you to advance your progress.
Below I’m going to highlight many of the guiding principles behind our program design. Check it out.
#20 Use The Max Effort Method
Decrease your higher repetition work and include more 1-Rep maxes. Often times trainees forget to include max effort work for the fear of getting injured. If you rotate your max effort work weekly the risk of injury is low assuming you already have efficient movement patterns, but the intensity is highest with a 1RM. In fact, there is no better way to improve neuromuscular efficiency & motor patterns.
#19 Use Compensatory Acceleration Training
Use Compensatory Acceleration Training (deliberately trying to accelerate the bar through concentric range of motion ie. Dynamic Effort Method).
Try using only 40-50% of your 1RM in a movement like a bench press. Perform 9 sets of 3 every 30-45s where you deliberately try to be as explosive as possible on each set while still maintaining proper mechanics and bar path. You may be surprised just how challenging this work is.
#18 Change Your Ramp-up Strategy
Spending an exorbitant amount of time warming up can take away from your actual training session. Keep your warm-ups short and efficient – 10 minutes should be all you need to prepare for your training to include tissue work, correctives, activation drills, priming the main movement, and driving the central nervous system.
#17 Use Smaller Increments To Hit New Rep Maxes
It’s easy to get greedy and make jumps that may be too big. Have a goal to beat your current 1RM by 5#s and move on.
#16 Use Contrast Methods
Also known heavier loads followed by lighter loads. Another example would be to use a dumbbell between your feet for a weighted pull-up and then drop the dumbbell performing subsequent reps with just bodyweight.
#15 Use Concentric Based Movements
Concentric-based movements are a favorite of ours to build absolute strength. They also allow us to work sticking points with the squat, deadlift, and press variations and tend to be easier to recover from.
#14 Get A Qualified Coach
Check the coach’s credentials outside of how great of an athlete they are or what they look like.
#13 Ensure Rest Periods Are Optimal
A maximal deadlift may require up to 3-5 minutes of rest between your maximal efforts whereas speed work should be able to be completed every 45-90s – context is key.
#12 Take Short Breaks From Your Regular Training
Often times we get “stale” with our current routine. Going outside your comfort zone may give you the spark you need to get re-motivated. You may also learn something about yourself you didn’t know in terms of what training methods work best for you.
#11 User Fewer Exercises In Your Session
It’s easy to get “exercise ADHD” and choose too many movements. Keep your training session concise and have a plan before going into the gym.
#10 Use Fewer Exercise Variations
For years it has always been “keep the body guessing” but that thinking has caused people to vary their programming far too much. This is something we see often at CrossFit affiliates where their clients complain about even doing the SAME WARM-UP twice in the same week, but how can you improve upon motor patterns by only doing something once and a while?
There is a fine line between too much variation and not enough variety – finding what resonates with you is your best bet, but consider the fact that after 4-weeks most will incur accommodation to the same exercises, loading parameters, intensities so making adjustments is important if you want to keep making gains.
If you love variety though 4 weeks will likely be too long and 1 week is not long enough to know what works for you and what does not.
We’ve found that two weeks for TYPE A people is the magic number. This gives us time to improve mechanics and discover whether or not an exercise variation scratches you where you itch so to speak.
#9 Decrease Training Frequency
If you train 5-6x a week try training 3-4x a week. You might be shocked to see that your progress starts to move forward again by implementing this strategy.
#8 Add Isometrics
Performing loaded isometrics holds at crucial points in your lifts. These may be difficult to be done at most commercial gyms but if you have the ability to set up pins in a squat rack you can use them at crucial points in your lifts like bench press, deadlift, and overhead press.
For instance, set-up your pins for your conventional deadlift where you pull the bar to the pins and then hold against the pins for 3-6 seconds of all-out effort. For most a good starting point is at knee level.
There is a fair amount of research to support the positive training effects of isometrics in terms of improving neuromuscular efficiency and maximal force a muscle or muscle group can generate.
Moreover, isometrics can be used to ramp up the sympathetic nervous system prior to training and utilize post-potentiation activation.
#7 Add Active Recovery Sessions
Include active recovery work in your training week. Aerobic work can be done in a variety of ways and is proven to facilitate recovery. My favorite variations include attaching a sled to my weight-belt and pulling for 20 minutes with a light load. The goal here is consistent low-output work.
My favorite AR session consists of:
- 20 minutes of easy cardio – 10 minutes on the treadmill + 10 minutes on the bike @120-130BPM
- 5 Minutes of Total Body Foam Rolling
- 5 Minutes of Total Body Static Stretching
- 5 Minutes of Meditation with Parasympathetic Breathing
The last three recovery modalities we prescribe at the end of just about every training session as a “cool-down” to start the recovery process.
#6 Add The Landmine
The Landmine has been an absolute changer to my own programming as well as for my clients over the last year. The landmine affords us the ability to press and squat from a new position which is great for variation but also aligns better with most people’s goals/needs.
For instance, the landmine turns the squat into more of a hip-dominant movement so trains where more people are weak (posterior chain) and allows people that would otherwise have issues going overhead with a traditional barbell overhead press the ability to train the same pattern with better posture.
#5 Use Accommodating Resistance
Use accommodating resistance in the form of band tension or chains. This may be another tool that may be hard to find in a commercial gym, but many CrossFit boxes have a few sets of chains on hand or even have the ability to set-up bands.
The list benefits of accommodating resistance are long, but to name a few providing tension throughout a full range of motion is important and will help prevent bar deceleration. We can also work with lighter loads and overload the lockout of our movements.
#4 Use Specialty Bars
Invest in different barbells, such as a safety squat bar (SSB), football bar, or bamboo bar (these are my TOP three.) Specialty bars are an amazing tool and can keep you in the game even if you’re injured.
Many trainees can not properly front squat, but using the safety-bar can provide a similar stimulus where the athlete is not limited by their lack of flexibility. You can also do cool things with the SSB like the overhead press, triceps extensions, and back raises.
#3 Find A Training Partner
This may be the single best thing you can do for your training. Just make sure your partner takes their training as seriously as you do first.
#2 Track Your Heart-rate Variability
Having the ability to use data to assess trainability is something I would highly recommend. Feeling good can be a state of mind. After three hard days of training, I’ve still felt “fine” but my HRV confirmed otherwise, as it should if you’re training with enough volume/loading.
Many times athletes feel great and instead of taking an “active recovery” day on their 4th day of training, they push the envelope. Instead of allowing yourself to make that decision using a tool like “Morpheus” will eliminate the chance of your own subjectiveness.
#1 Start Training From Home
Most people that follow Box Programming know that we train in our garage so of course advocating things that we’re partial to is inevitable, but training from home is awesome in too many ways. The obvious benefits include:
- Train when you want
- Train how you want
- Never have to wait for a piece of equipment
This has been the single best investment to my family’s health & wellness that I would highly recommend. The best part is that you can start slow – get enough equipment (less than 1k worth) to perform 1-2 workouts a week from home. Eventually, as you accumulate more equipment you can increase training frequency from home.
Even having the ability to do things like active recovery training from home will improve the quality of your life and your progress. If you’re interested in learning more check out this article here.
These strategies will likely not only improve your training but most importantly your quality of life. Your training should never take away from your life outside of the gym.
Hitting new personal records is always rewarding, but being excited to train and feeling good thereafter should take precedence. Usually when the latter happens the former is more regular.
Ps. For almost every point discussed today, I’ve written an article for so feel free to check some of those out here!