You work hard, sweat, suffer and sacrifice so that you can dominate on the gridiron. Your football game is a top priority, and you make it known to your opponents at every game. You never fumble the ball because you have an iron-like grip while wearing quality custom football gloves. There’s no room for 2nd place. You play to win.
Becoming the best requires plenty of time and effort. What happens when the results you’re seeing are not proportionate to the effort that you put in? Or even worse, sometimes, the harder you are working, the less you are getting in return. If you have been struggling to make any progress on the field or in the weight room for weeks, you may have hit a plateau in your training.
Let’s take a look at some of the aspects of your training program and plateaus. We will break down what a plateau is, how you got there and what you can do to avoid it in the future.
What’s a Plateau?
Geographically speaking, a plateau is a relatively flat piece of land. In regards to your training program, a plateau is painfully (emphasis on painful) similar, as your progress charts would look flat also. If your progress has stalled for more than a couple of weeks, chances are you have reached a plateau. Welcome to the land of no gains, or progress.
Working out and playing hard is a lot of fun when everything is going well and you’re seeing progress. Gains in strength, speed and size signal our brains’ reward systems that keep us coming back for more. When the progress stops, that’s an indicator that something is off.
How We Get There in the First Place
I’ll start by saying that you definitely don’t want to be at a plateau but knowing how you get there is a great way to avoid it in the future. Our bodies love homeostasis, which is an internal state of balance. During training, you should be pushing hard to disrupt this homeostasis. Contrary to popular belief, while you are training, you are actually tearing your body down.
After intense workouts, your body will adapt by rebuilding the muscles; each time you should get a little bit stronger, a little bit more muscular or a little bit faster. Once you have adapted to the workout, you have reached this homeostasis again–and that’s when the gains stop.
You train hard to make improvements which means you constantly fight homeostasis. If you just want to maintain, there’s nothing wrong with the same workout day in and day out. Do you train to stay the same though? I haven’t met anybody yet that would answer “yes” to that question.
How to Know You’ve Reached a Plateau
Do you want to kill it on the football field? You have to train harder and smarter. Keep a detailed workout log. If you are serious about making progress, record all of your sets and reps as well as sprint times, etc. The only way to know if you’ve reached a plateau is to have those details. Review your records and if you see your progress come to a halt, you’re at a plateau.
Also, it’s important to note that you can reach a plateau in one area of your training, but that shouldn’t hinder your training overall. If all aspects of your training are suffering (as well as your performance on the field), you might be training too hard, which is known as overtraining. The best cure for overtraining is to take a few days off and rest to allow your body to recover.
Overcoming the Plateau
Believe it or not, this is actually the easy part. Keeping logs and reviewing them actually takes more time and dedication than it does to break out of a plateau. Remember the real reason behind plateaus in the first place–a stale workout routine. This is where you get creative and switch things up.
Your Weakest Link
One thing to keep in mind with football, training and nearly every other aspect of life is that you are only as strong as your weakest link. When you focus on your weaknesses, the whole chain becomes stronger. Pay close attention to your performance on the field and in the gym and be honest with yourself. Too many athletes fall into the trap of building their strengths and only focusing on those aspects. As your strengths become more prominent, they are shining a brighter light on your weaknesses. Don’t forget the importance of long-lasting football gear. If you’re a beast in the gym but they call you “butterfingers” on the field, chances are you need to upgrade to some quality receiver gloves!
Break Up the Routine
Another way to overcome a plateau is to shock your body with new training methods. If you’re spending a lot of time lifting free weights to condition and build strength for the field, try using resistance bands. A good start to incorporating resistance bands into workouts is to decrease your barbell weights by about 20% and replace that with resistance bands. The elastic nature of resistance bands adds accommodating resistance; that is, resistance that increases as the lifter’s leverage increases. Try this method on core lifts like squats, bench presses and deadlifts for rapid strength and speed gains.
What You Put in Is What You Get Out
Once you’ve gotten your training squared away, take a look at your diet. Football players spend hours a day lifting, running plays, running, and so on. All this activity burn is very metabolically “expensive,” so you have to keep your calories up. If you’re training hard but not seeing gains in strength or size, you may need to eat more. Don’t forget your protein intake, as protein is a major structural component of muscle tissue and is critical in muscle repair.
Don’t train to stay the same! Track your training, keep things fresh and be mindful of your nutrition.