With that said, let's take a look at a few ways to bust through a plateau or achieve those goals you haven't quite reached yet.
1. Do Everything you D0n't Want to do - For most lifters, this means legs. Specifically, squats and deadlifts. Yes, they are hard (if you're doing them properly) and yes, I know your legs will be sore for a couple days, but there's a reason they are so difficult - they work! What is more difficult, a circuit of leg curls, leg extensions, , hip adduction/abduction, glute bridges, calf raises, planks, and back extensions, or heavy squats? Better yet, what's more effective? Don't kid yourself into thinking because you trained your legs on machines that you did a leg workout. Use the barbell, load it up with plates, pick it up off the floor, and stand up with it on your shoulders. Likewise, most exercises we avoid are ones we should be doing because they are holding us back. Look back on your workouts, whatever area you avoid or do easy, crank up the intensity and bring it up to par. Your body wants to keep some symmetry, so if your stuck in place with one muscle group, growth in the others will be limited.
2. Time is Your Most Precious Asset - Imagine you only have 20 minutes from when you enter the gym to when you leave, how are you going to spend it? Probably not with ten minutes with a treadmill "warm up" or mixing your workout drink...I hope. Treat your workouts with a sense of urgency, attack the weights with intensity and get your work done. Instead of pretending to warm up on a cardio machine, try a barbell complex or short total body circuit to get everything ready. Then, big weights and big lifts. Remember, intensity is more important than duration in training. Power, strength, and explosion happen fast, not gradually over hours. Think of it this way, who won the 100m dash in the Olympics? What about the 5000m? Exactly.
3. Don't Treat Ab Work as a Main Movement - I'm not going to say your abs get all the training they need from other lifts, but abs/core should be treated as auxiliary work. Use core work as active rest between sets of main lifts or as a circuit later in a workout, don't dedicate five sets strictly to abs and resting from abs. That's not how you get a six pack.
4. If you Haven't Done a Lift in the past Month, do it - This works off number 1, but also serves as a reminder to vary your workouts. You may have found a program that's great and gives you results, but don't get complacent - eventually your body will adapt. That doesn't mean scrap the whole thing every week, just try different grips, stances, or weights/reps/rest schemes. Instead of incline bench, try it with dumbbells, single arm DB bench, or replace deadlifts with sumo or wide grip. Small changes, continuing progress.
5. If You're in a rut, try this - Classic 5x5 workout, with some additional tweaks. 5 main exercises, each for 5x5, with the first three sets acting as warm-up/acclimation sets, and the last two as your true working sets. For the rest period during the first three sets, there will be auxiliary work to be done as active rest. Set 1 will be 50% of your working weight (not your 5RM, but the weight you will use in set 4), set 2 is 70%, set 3 is 85%, with the final two as working sets.
So if you're going to use 200 pounds for your working set in power cleans, set 1 is 100, set 2 - 140, set 3 - 170, set 4 - 200, set 5 - 200+. Simple enough? If it's easier to round the weights, that's not a problem (185 is a lot quicker to load onto a bar than 180). Here's how the workout will look
- Hang Clean - 5x5 (Hip Flexor Stretch - 30 seconds after each of the first three sets)
- Squat - 5x5 (Push Ups - x10-20)
- Wide Grip Deadlift - 5x5 (DB Rows - x8)
- Single Arm DB Military Press - 5x5 (Single Leg RDL - x8 with light weight)
- Pull Ups - 5x5 (Planks - 30-60 seconds)
Good luck, if you have any questions you can reach me on Twitter, Facebook, email, or on my cell.