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Hit a Workout Plateau? Here’s How to Bust Through

It happens to the best of us: you’re getting stronger, faster, and nimbler, until one day you just…aren’t. Your mile time isn’t shrinking, you’re doing the same number of reps on the same series of machines, and your favorite set of gym dumbbells seems to actually recognize you when you walk through the door. Uh-oh. It’s called a workout plateau, and though hitting one can be disheartening, it’s not all that difficult to push your way out of it. You’ve got a couple of options here—take a swing at your favorite one, or go hard and try them all.

Swap out your favorite moves

This might be painfully obvious, but it’s worth saying: if your old moves aren’t doing it for you anymore, it’s time to try something new.

If your go-to ab workout consists of doing a bunch of various crunches until you’re gasping, don’t add on more crunches—try something else entirely, like hanging knee raises, or the Crossfit-favorite move, the Hollow Rock. If you’ve been getting your cardio done on the treadmill, hit up the rock climbing wall instead. If you tend to workout indoors, go outdoors, or vice versa. Not only will you give your bored brain a break, but even the subtlest variations on your go-to exercises will work slightly different muscle groups, catapulting you out of your funk.

Toss on a weighted vest

Workout plateaus are the perfect time to challenge yourself in innovative ways. You push yourself outside of the gym; why not up the stakes inside, too? By adding a weighted vest, you’re making your entire body heavier, which in turn makes every single movement you do a bit harder, from burpees to your walk over to the drinking fountain. 

Look for a vest that’s about 10%-20% of your body weight. You’ll probably want a heavier vest for strength training, but a lighter vest for endurance training. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can get two.

Pause during reps

Sure, you can fly through 100 push-ups no problem these days, but maybe that is the problem. During your next workout, force yourself to pause and hold the pose for a couple of seconds during your go-to workout moves. For example, in a pushup or a weighted squat, pause for two seconds halfway up before completing the rep. You’ll be feeling the burn in no time. Just be sure you maintain great form before, during, and after the pause to avoid injury.

Go home and sleep

You’re probably not thinking about sleep at all when you’re stressing about your workout plateau, but the link between the z’s on your mattress and the reps at your gym is stronger than you think. If you’re not getting enough Slow Wave Sleep at night—that’s the deep, restorative sleep stage where your muscles repair themselves and your brain releases human growth hormone to stimulate cell regeneration—then your body simply isn’t going to grow stronger, faster, and nimbler day in and day out. 

Instead of adding more reps, take a long hard look at your sleep routine and see how you can improve it. Add blackout shades, keep tech out of the bedroom, cut out alcohol and sugar before bed, and make sure your bedding is contributing to restorative sleep. At MOLECULE, we’ve Air-Engineered™ all of our products to optimize rest and recovery, so pick up a pair of cool sheets that’ll wick moisture away from you all night (keeping your body cooler and more ready for Slow Wave Sleep), or grab one of our pillows created with Air-Engineered™ technology that are scientifically crafted to support temperature regulation, adjustability, and comfort—and are suitable for any type of sleeper. There’s a reason elite athletes like Russell Wilson and Alex Morgan use our products—they know that when it comes to busting through a workout plateau, you can’t afford to ignore the power of shuteye.