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Resistance Training Plateaus
By Amy Giaquinto
Dec 1, 2005, 09:56



If youíre an intermediate to advanced exerciser looking for ways to overcome or prevent plateaus, then you may want to consider adding an advanced resistance training technique to your current program. When a more advanced exerciser reaches a plateau, itís got to do with a number of factors starting with the simple fact that as you become stronger, more intensity is required to continue to make gains. But donít underestimate your bodyís ability to adapt to more than just intensity. Overcoming a plateau may require changing the exercises you perform, the order you perform them in, the time of day when you exercise, frequency, intensity, duration, mode, etc. In some cases, even after changing your program and closely monitoring your diet, you still might not get the results youíre looking for. This is when itís time to call out the heavy artillery.  Itís time to give your muscles a shock that will wake them up and force them to give you the results youíre looking for. Itís time to pull out all stops, to raise the bar, to turn up the heat and pick a more advanced training principle to get you over that plateau. 



The advanced resistance training techniques in this article are not for beginners due to the fact that they require you to perform each exercise with perfect form despite deeply fatigued muscles. And speaking of tired muscles, itís also essential to use a spotter on each exercise since many of these techniques force you to train at or very near failure. Also, these exercises should not be performed for more than two consecutive weeks because of the high probability of over-training. As with any intense exercise routine, youíre going to need more rest between workouts. Pick three or four non-consecutive days to train and thatís it. Also realize that with advanced training, thereís a greater risk for developing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), so itís essential to stretch for a minimum of 20 minutes after each session. Doing fifteen minutes of low-intensity cardio, such as walking or bicycling immediately after your workout followed by 20 minutes of stretching may also prevent DOMS from becoming overly unbearable. Get plenty of sleep, eat properly and warm up thoroughly.


Advanced Resistance Training Reminders:

1. Advanced training techniques are not recommended for beginners.

2. Always use a spotter!

3. Perform light cardio for 10-15 minutes before starting to help prevent injuries.

4. Have all equipment ready to go so you can move from one exercise to the next. 

5. Lift enough weight to stay within your chosen rep range for each technique. No more, no less. Generally, lifters stick with 4-6 or 12-15 reps for most of these techniques, with a few daring to go as high as 20-25.

6. Watch your form! Perfect form is essential, especially with advanced resistance techniques.

7. Donít forget to breathe.

8. Shoot for 2-4 sets of each exercise, for example 3 supersets.

9. Spend 15 minutes performing low-intensity cardio immediately following your workout.

10. Stretch for a minimum of 20 minutes after your workout to aid in recovery and to help prevent DOMS.

11. Train for 3 or 4 non-consecutive days each week. No more!

12. Never perform any of these techniques for more than two consecutive weeks.


Advanced Resistance Training Techniques

Slow Training is resistance training that focuses on maintaining a continuous contraction throughout the jointís entire range of motion in order to stress red (slow-twitch) fibers, which in turn, promotes muscular endurance. To practice slow training, the concentric and eccentric phases of each exercise should take five seconds. Count five seconds up and five seconds down. You might want to start with a slightly lower weight than youíre used to so that you can complete your selected number of reps. Rest for two minutes between sets.


Eccentric Training, or training that concentrates on the elongation phase of the muscle contraction, has the greatest potential for building strength and thatís why it is often used in rehabilitation settings. For example, start with your arm in a contracted position for a biceps curl. Have someone hand you the weight. Take four seconds to lower the weight. Your partner should take the weight from you while your arm is still extended. Repeat this process for 2-3 sets, resting for two minutes in between sets. With eccentric training, choose a weight that you can slowly lower for your selected rep range. As a rule of thumb, you can generally lower 30-40% more weight than you can raise, so you may need to start with more weight than you think.


Pyramid Sets increase weight and decrease repetitions with each set. Begin with a weight that allows you to perform 15-20 repetitions. Rest for a minute to a minute and a half and then increase your weight so that you can only perform 12-15 reps for your second set. Rest. Increase your weight, but this time youíll need enough weight so that you can only get 6 reps or the lowest number of reps you have determined for your third set. Rest for three to five minutes between each complete pyramid set.


Sample Pyramid Training Breakdown






45 lbs


Rest 1-1.5 minutes


55 lbs


Rest 1-1.5 minutes


65 lbs



Breakdown Sets are the opposite of pyramid sets. Instead of starting light, you begin with a weight that enables you to do only a specific number of repetitions, such as 6-8. When you have completed the 8th rep, ďstrip the barĒ by removing 5-10 pounds, or enough weight so that you can push out another 6-8 reps. Continue removing weight until youíre no longer able to push out 6 reps, which indicates that you have finished your set. Itís essential to have a partner to help spot you and to remove weight from the bar or hand you the proper dumbbells so that you can do each set with little to no rest in between. Another helpful hint is to load the bar up with smaller plates so that you can quickly remove 5-10 pounds from the bar at a time rather than jockeying around to remove the 25s only to turn around and add four 10s and two 2.5s before you can continue.  Rest for five minutes between each complete breakdown set.


Sample Breakdown Set
























Compound Sets simply means that you alternate two exercises for the same muscle group with no more than 1-1.5 minutes of rest in between. For example, 12-15 triceps kickbacks immediately followed by 20-25 dips. The second exercise should use less weight, so that your rep range can be higher. Resistance bands are great for the second exercise in your compound because they provide a light enough resistance for a higher number of reps. Rest for two minutes once you have finished each two-exercise set.


Supersets are the opposite of compound sets. As opposed to performing two exercises for the same muscle group with no rest in between, supersets focus on performing two consecutive exercises for opposing muscle groups without rest in between. For example, a set of 12-15 biceps curls is immediately followed by 12-15 triceps kickbacks. Rest for two minutes in between each two-exercise set.


Tri-Sets and Giant Sets are simply longer compound sets or supersets. Tri-sets incorporate three consecutive exercises with no rest in between. Giant sets consist of anywhere from four to six exercises, once again, with no rest in between. Rest for three to five minutes between each three to six-exercise set.


Adding Advanced Resistance Training to Your Current Routine

How often should you perform advanced resistance training exercises? Itís recommended that you wait 8-12 weeks in between each two-week advanced training session. When youíre ready to intensify your workout, simply pick an advanced resistance training technique and take it to the gym!


When done correctly, advanced resistance training techniques are perfect for intermediate to advanced lifters who want to prevent plateaus while adding some variety to their program. Advanced techniques not only increase strength, but they can also help you kick-start fat loss, increase muscle mass, increase muscular endurance, prevent boredom, and help you quickly and effectively take your strength training program to the next level.