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How to Break Through Plateaus

Our bodies are remarkably adaptable at growing accustomed to new strenuous activities.  By repeating the same workouts over-and-over, your body will start adjusting and you’ll begin to experience diminishing returns on the overall effectiveness.  

They key here is to mix up your workouts and create muscle confusion. Our goal here is to overcome those plateaus.  Below are some tips for getting started.

Tip #1: Take control of your breathing

Your breathe might not be one of the first things that come to mind, but smooth and efficient breathing is a crucial component in fueling your muscles with the oxygen needed to exert energy.  You want to breathe in steady through the nose on the contraction of the movement, and then exhale through the exertion.

Use your breathe to create a rhythm and tempo for your movements.  You want to focus on filling the lungs with as much air as possible.


Tip #2: Focus on just the negative part of the movement

Doing just the negatives is a great way to build solid core and stability.  With the negatives, you are only focusing on the lowering movement of the pull up.  The ideal pullup bar allows your feet to touch the ground.

You’ll want to do the constriction phase of the movement with a very slow and controlled 5 count.  

What you want to do is jump up or provide yourself some inertia to lift off the ground, then very slow and controlled --- ideally for a count of 5 seconds --- until you lower yourself and your feet touch the ground.

Continue doing this 8-12x with a focus on a gradual 5 second count throughout the movement.   Towards the end, you’ll start to see your grip only last 1-2 seconds.  This is when you’ll start feeling the burn ;)  

Tip #3: 80/20 it by focusing on transition points

Another strategy for overcoming plateaus in your pull ups is focusing on just the beginning and end of the movement.  Practice doing holds with yourself above the bar for as long as you can, and then again in a free hang as well.

Aim to improve your total time in both positions.  Initially you might be able to only get 30 seconds of each, but overtime you will build up more stability and strength and this will translate into doing more regular reps.  

Tip #4: Mix up your timing & tempo

To help stimulate muscle confusion, you want to frequently alter the tempo and timing of your reps and sets.  For example, you might be accustomed to doing a set of 10-12 reps, resting a minute or so, then doing it again.

Mix this up!  Try doing a set of 5, resting 10 seconds, set of 5, resting 10 seconds, etc.  The goal here is to frequently switch from more endurance focus to more strength focus.  Both are important to building a health physique.  

Tip #5: Chalk up small wins

With any new ambitious goal, it can be easy to quickly get frustrated with not seeing progress right away.  It’s really important to both recognize and congratulate yourself for small wins.  This creates a psychological advantage where you actively prime yourself with the mentality of small steady improvements.  

You begin looking forward to and start expecting small, but consistent improvements.  These steady changes compile overtime, and produce compounding effects.  In the words of Brian Tracy --  “by the yard, it’s hard, but inch by inch, it's a cinch.”  


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