How to improve constantly and avoid a training plateau

How to improve constantly and avoid a training plateau

When performance stagnates even though you train regularly, it is frustrating. For many years, experts have therefore been advising periodization. After six to eight weeks, it is advisable to increase the intensity or add new stimuli. Otherwise, you will reach a training plateau. But especially with regard to modern workouts like Crossfit or Functional Training, this is no longer true.

Even small changes in training can help

The basic principle of periodization dates back to the 1930s. It was established by the Viennese endocrinologist Hans Seyle. According to his research, muscles need constant stress, otherwise, they adapt. Recent studies have confirmed this. The body needs about eight weeks to learn new movements and to implement them efficiently. The whole thing is called neural adaptation. Depending on the training goal, it is then advisable to make changes to avoid a fitness plateau. One increases the weights, lengthens the running time or increases the running speed. Even small changes are sufficient for further neural adaptation.

Training level and genetics play a role

If these changes are missing, the body switches to autopilot because the new stimulation is missing. This causes the performance to stagnate. So far so good. But there is a problem: For athletes who have been training regularly for a long time, the six to eight-week rule is no longer so easily applicable. This is because, in well-trained athletes, the adjustment symptoms vary from person to person. Several variables have to be taken into account: How often do you train? In what form are you in? How high is the training level? Of course, genetics also plays a role. For some people, adaptation symptoms appear more quickly than for others.

Sometimes small changes are enough to avoid a training plateau
A good coach knows how to avoid a training plateau (©adpic)

When should I set a new training stimulus?

So what to do? When to set a different or new stimulus? In fact, in these cases, a good body feeling is required. If exercises are easier to do in strength training than before, it is time to increase the weights or make modifications in the execution. For example, you can do knee bends with the usual weight, but on an unstable surface. In endurance training, you can increase the speed, lengthen the distance or make the profile of the track more difficult. It may well be that one or the other should increase the level of difficulty after just three weeks. Here you need a sure instinct because otherwise, it is all too easy to slip into overtraining.

Own rules for Functional Fitness, HIIT and CrossFit

The situation is even different from the popular new training variants Functional Fitness, Crossfit or HIIT. Here, many exercises are not only about strength or endurance but also about coordination. In other words: people who are gifted in movement and who learn new exercises and techniques quickly can sometimes increase the level of difficulty after just two or three training units.

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