6 Plateau-Busting Tips and a 9 Week Program

You train with the intensity of a full-force hurricane, eat so much protein you are on a first-name-basis with the staff at your local grocery store, and regularly consume the best performance supplements money can buy. You are happy with your gains, and appear to be ticking all the right muscle-building boxes. However, you feel you have yet to achieve the best gains of your life – and you are probably right. In fact, you may have hit a dreaded training plateau. No matter how hard we try with each passing workout or how diligent we appear to be working on all aspects of our training approach, there are untested methods that, upon being incorporated into one’s program, will provoke further progress to reveal all we are capable of. The following article will outline an approach to building the complete physique, one that I have personally found to be successful for many an aspiring muscle-builder. Follow it to the letter to reveal uncharted muscular development of your own.

Skip to the 9 week training program

Periodization

Periodization

Starting any training program with the same approach used at its conclusion is a big mistake. First, the body must gradually ease into increasingly more difficult work that is periodically added to continually challenge the muscular system; attempting everything at once from the outset may result in over-training or, worse, injury.

Secondly, by dividing a training routine into distinct phases, one will ultimately experience the cumulative benefits each stage has to offer – just as the body begins to acclimate to a given phase, another is presented.

Continually challenging one’s capabilities with unique stimulus further encourages stubborn muscle tissue to work harder and grow beyond the parameters set by a standard, across-the-board, training approach.

The training program I’ve outlined below will be divided into three distinct 3 week phases utilizing the same effective protocols, but modifying these variables so as to further increase each phase’s difficulty level. In Phase 1, a solid foundation of mass, strength (through the periodic employment of low rep sets) and conditioning is the objective, while the more intensive Phases’ 2 and 3 will promote a great deal more super-compensation through staggered rep ranges, hypertrophy-based training, the introduction of intensity principals, increased exercise selection, and a higher overall workload.

By periodizing one’s training in this fashion the body will be forced to adapt and compensate, and more muscle growth will result.

Rest Periods

Given the following program’s gradual increase in intensity from phase to phase, rest between sets (as outlined below under “program notes”) becomes increasingly more important as one’s training progresses.

To keep the intensity placed upon our muscles high while recovering sufficiently between sets so as to hit each with maximal effort, we must closely monitor how long we rest between each succession of reps.

Maintaining strictly defined rest periods will also allow us to condense our training sessions into shorter workloads which will ensure we train harder and faster so we can get out of the gym quicker and begin the recovery process sooner. The heavier the weight lifted, the more recovery needed between sets.

Intensity Techniques

Intensity Techniques

A bodybuilding training regime without a generous inclusion of intensity techniques (as outlined below) will produce only a fraction of the results achieved by one with them. The days of an across the board training approach of 3 sets of 8-12 per movement are well and truly over; a realization that they can extend the intensity of each set through a variety of methods has given the trainee a performance edge to boost bodybuilding progress beyond conventional training parameters.

We must judiciously and strategically incorporate each intensity technique to “shock” the body into compensating in response to each stressor.

Thus, in the following program (specifically, Phases’ 2-3) intensity techniques will vary from workout to workout, and phase to phase. Based on their efficacy and proven track record, the major intensity techniques to be used in the following program are: rest/pause, drop sets, supersets, and partial reps.

The Mental Edge

Intensity Techniques

Proper bodybuilding training is as much a mental game as it is physically demanding. In the following program, it is expected that the trainee will at all times apply maximum focus; no talking with friends, no checking text messages, no updating Facebook. With its emphasis on condensing and elevating training intensity, the ability to concentrate is a fundamental program attribute.

Mentally rehearse each set before attempting it, visualize positive outcomes from the beginning of your session to its conclusion.

Though not easy at first, practicing such mindfulness will, over time, give you a mental edge to elevate progress beyond what would otherwise be expected.

Pre-training Supplementation

As effective as they are, mental tricks, intensity techniques, and beneficial training strategies will be compromised if energy levels are low.

Razor8 Blast Powder - American FormulationThough proper nutrition will ensure a good basic supply of carbohydrates on which to train with backbreaking intensity, the mental arousal, neuromuscular stimulation, supercharged focus and physical prowess afforded through the inclusion of a quality pre-training supplement is not to be underestimated. At the very least, it will give you a performance edge unique to the effectiveness of their powerful ingredients. Given its intensive nature, it is advised that all who attempt the following program consume a reputable pre-workout supplement. ALLMAX Nutrition’s Razor8 Blast Powder – highly concentrated and the most potent formulation available today – remains a market leader in quality pre-workout products.

Consistency of Effort

As in life, consistency of effort in the gym, provided such effort is of the highest quality, is needed for positive outcomes. To ensure all training sessions are consistently productive, it is important to mentally rehearse what it is one expects to achieve physically.

A firm plan of attack is needed – visualizing a successful rep, set and workout must be undertaken in order to bring to fruition reliable levels in training intensity and, ultimately, ongoing performance results.

Without optimal workout performance, whatever training objective we hope to tick off our ever-expanding list is negated. Be sure never to become complacent in the gym. Note in a training diary all performance indicators and assess these from session to session, with the ever-present objective of surpassing each. Whether you are attempting Phases’ 1, 2, or 3, all of the following program’s workouts must be completed in line with pre-determined standards of excellence.

Program Notes

Download Workout Plan

Rest Between Sets (Based on Rep Range)

  • 4 – 6 = 2 min
  • 8 – 12 = 1.5 min
  • 12-15 = 1 min
  • 15-20 = 1 min
  • 20-25 = 1 min

Recommended Weight

Adjust weight according to the rep ranges. For example, for the rep range of 4-6, one’s heaviest weight should be employed, whereas 20-25 reps will necessitate a much lighter load.

Cardio

Two methods to be employed:

  • HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training = cranking up the intensity for 1 minute (90+% of MHR) followed by 2 minutes at a moderate pace (60-70% of MHR)
  • Steady-State (75 percent of Maximum Heart Rate for full cardio duration)

All cardio is to be done before breakfast on an empty stomach (though a thermogenic supplement may be taken 1 hour before each cardio session).

Intensity Notes

  • SS = Super Set
  • DS = Drop Set (DS2 = double drop; DS3 = triple drop) – reduce the weight by 30 percent for each successive drop.
  • PS = Partial Set -upon completion of a set perform 2-3 partial reps.
  • RP = Rest/Pause – upon completion of a set, rest for 2 seconds, perform 2 more reps, rest another 2 seconds, and perform a final 2 reps.

Phase One: Week 1 – 3

Monday

Morning (before breakfast) – Cardio

25 minutes of HIIT

Evening – Chest & Arms

  • Incline dumbbell press: 4 sets of 8-12.
  • Barbell bench press: 2 sets of 4-6
  • Close grip bench press: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Close-grip triceps pushdowns: 3 sets of 12-15
  • Incline dumbbell curls: 3 sets of 8-12
  • Standing barbell curls: 3 sets of 4-6
  • Hammer curls: 2 sets of 8-12

Tuesday

Legs

  • Regular squats: 4 sets of 8-12.
  • Front squats: 3 sets of 4-6
  • Lying leg curls: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Leg press: 2 sets of 12-15
  • Calf raises (seated): 3 sets of 8-12
  • Calf raises (standing): 4 sets of 8-12

Wednesday

Morning – Cardio

25 minutes of HIIT

Thursday

Shoulders & Traps

  • Bent over dumbbell raises: 3 sets of 8-12
  • Standing dumbbell presses: 3 sets of 4-6
  • Dumbbell shrugs: 4 sets of 12-15
  • Side lateral dumbbell raise: 3 sets of 8-12

Friday

Morning – Cardio

25 minutes of HIIT

Evening – Back

  • Bent over barbell rows: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Close grip lat pull-downs: 3 sets of 4-6
  • Chin-ups: 3 sets of 8-12
  • Seated pulley rows: 2 sets of 12-15

Saturday

Rest day

Sunday

Morning – Cardio & Abs

  • 45 minutes of steady state cardio
  • Swiss ball crunches (with weight): 4 sets of 12-15
  • Hanging leg raise (with weight): 3 sets of 15-20

Phase 2: Week 4 – 6

Monday

Morning – Cardio

35 minutes of HIIT

Evening – Chest & Arms

  • Flat bench dumbbell flyes SS with cable crossovers: 3 sets of 15-20
  • Dumbbell bench press: 3 sets of 12-15 (DS2 for final two sets)
  • Incline dumbbell presses: 2 sets of 8-12
  • Incline dumbbell curls: 4 sets of 8-12 (PS for final two sets)
  • Hammer curls: 3 sets of 4-6
  • Barbell preacher curls: 2 sets of 12-15 (RP for final set)
  • Close-grip triceps pushdowns: 2 sets of 8-12 (DS3 on final set)
  • Lying barbell triceps extensions: 3 sets of 12-15
  • Close grip bench press 2 sets of 8-12 (RP for final set)

Tuesday

Legs

  • Regular squats SS with leg extensions: 3 sets of 12-15
  • Leg press: 3 sets of 12-15
  • Dumbbell lunges: 2 sets of 8-12 (RP for final set)
  • Leg curls: 3 sets of 8-12
  • Stiff-legged deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-12 (DS2 for final two sets)
  • Calf raises (seated): 3 sets of 12-15 (DS3 for final set)
  • Calf raises (standing): 4 sets of 12-15

Wednesday

Morning – Cardio

35 minutes of HIIT

Thursday

Shoulders & Traps

  • Side lateral dumbbell raise: 4 sets of 12-15 (PS for final two sets)
  • Bent over dumbbell raise SS with barbell press: 3 sets of 8-12
  • Dumbbell shrugs: 3 sets of 12-15
  • Dumbbell upright rows: 3 sets of 8-12 (DS3 for final two sets)

Friday

Morning – Cardio

35 minutes of HIIT

Evening – Back

  • Chin-ups: 4 sets of 12-15
  • Bent over barbell rows: 3 sets of 12-15 (DS3 for final two sets)
  • Deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-12
  • Close grip lat pull-downs: 4 sets of 8-12 (RP for final two sets)

Saturday

Rest day

Sunday

Morning – Cardio & Abs

  • 45 minutes steady-state cardio
  • Swiss Ball crunches SS with hanging leg raises (weight added to each): 4 sets of 12-15
  • Side dumbbell bends: 3 sets of 15-20

Phase Three: Week 7 – 9

Monday

Morning (before breakfast) – Cardio

35 minutes of HIIT

Evening – Chest & Arms

  • Incline barbell press SS with incline dumbbell press: 3 sets of 8-12
  • Incline dumbbell flyes: 2 sets of 15-20 (DS2 for final set)
  • Barbell bench press: 2 sets of 8-12 (RP for final set)
  • Close grip bench press: 3 sets of 8-12
  • Close-grip triceps pushdowns: 4 sets of 12-15 (DS3 for final two sets)
  • Lying barbell triceps extensions: 3 sets of 12-15
  • Incline dumbbell curls: 3 sets of 12-15 (PS for final two sets)
  • Standing barbell curls: 4 sets of 8-12 (RP for final set)
  • Hammer curls: 2 sets of 12-15

Tuesday

Legs

  • Leg press: 4 sets of 8-12 (RP for final two sets)
  • Regular squats: 3 sets of 15-20 (DS3 for final set)
  • Leg extensions SS with hack squats: 3 sets of 8-12
  • Leg curls: 2 sets of 12-15 (DS3 for both sets)
  • Stiff-legged deadlifts: 3 sets of 8-12
  • Calf raises (seated) SS with toe raises on leg press machine: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Calf raises (standing): 4 sets of 15-20 (DS3 for final two sets)

Wednesday

Morning (before breakfast) – Cardio

35 minutes of HIIT

Thursday

Shoulders & Traps

  • Side lateral dumbbell raises SS with bent over dumbbell raises: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Standing dumbbell presses: 3 sets of 12-15 (RP for final two sets)
  • Dumbbell upright rows: 4 sets of 12-50 (DS3 for final two sets)
  • Dumbbell shrugs SS with front raises: 3 sets of 8-12 (PS for final two sets of front raises)

Friday

Morning – Cardio

35 minutes of HIIT

Evening – Back

  • Bent over barbell rows: 4 sets of 8-12 (DS3 for final two sets)
  • Seated pulley rows SS with close grip lat pull-downs: 4 sets of 8-12
  • Chin-ups: 3 sets of 12-15
  • Deadlifts: 4 sets of 8-12 (RP for final two sets)

Saturday

Rest day

Sunday

Morning – Cardio & Abs

  • 60 minutes of steady-state cardio
  • Hanging leg raises SS with rope crunches on pull-down machine: 4 sets of 15-20
  • Swiss Ball crunches: 4 sets of 15-20 (add weight)
  • Floor crunches SS with dumbbell side bends: 3 sets of 15-20

Download Workout Plan

6 Important Plateau-busting Tips

David Robson

A respected health and fitness writer, David has been published in industry publications such as Status Fitness Magazine, Muscle & Fitness and Bodybuilding.com. With 20 years in the personal training trenches, the insights he has gained through practical experience, alongside degrees in psychology and sports science, have enabled him to go beyond the surface to provide educational articles that have informed thousands of health and fitness devotees the world over. Contact David at: davidrobson19@hotmail.co.nz and at davidrobsonelite.com

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