Breaking Through the Workout Wall

By: ATLX Contributor and Downtown LA’s Master Trainer Jesse Gaynor

If you’re reading this article, chances are good that you exercise on at least a fairly regular basis. And if you work out on a regular basis, then you know that a person typically sees his or her most noticeable results in the first two to six weeks of a given workout stretch. And unfortunately, you also know about hitting the proverbial wall – that frustrating time when suddenly those results in your body and/or performance aren’t coming so easily. It’s the point of diminishing return, and eventually, everyone ends up there, staring at the wall.

And so the question is: how do we get through it?

Throughout my time as a trainer, nutritionist and injury rehab specialist, I’ve come across two distinct kinds of people when it comes to hitting the wall in a workout regimen. First, there are those who simply quit. A lack of results leads to a lack of motivation, and it’s usually these people who spend their whole lives moving in and out of shape, never maintaining a workout regimen beyond that first surge of results. These people usually give back everything they gained and then some, and are always starting over from scratch.

Now, the second type of person, rather than throwing in the towel when faced with hitting the wall, chooses instead to keep going, keep grinding, and these people, on some level, are to be commended. However, it’s not enough to just keep going. We don’t want to be that person who’s at the gym every single day whose body never seems to change. We want to see some results for our effort, and when those results get harder to come by, there is only one true way to push through the wall.

You have to work harder.

It’s a pretty obvious concept, and yet how many of us really push ourselves? At your gym, how many people are exercising while on their phone? How many people are treating the gym like a social club, chatting and laughing in between sets? If you’ve got the time and energy to be laughing, you’re not working hard enough.

To see real results, you need to be sweating, breathing hard, even hurting, and when you don’t think you can do another rep or run another mile, you have to do two more reps, run two more miles. Too many people assume that going through the motions will get the results they want, but lifting light, non-strenuous weights that don’t test your threshold doesn’t cut it. Engaging in long, easy aerobic sessions that don’t elevate your heart rate for an extended period of time don’t cut it, either. To see results, you have to work hard. Plain and simple.

Beyond that, you’ll hear a lot of trainers talking about “tricking” your body as a means of pushing through the wall. It’s true in a sense; you can only do the same thing so many times before your body stops reacting to some degree. However, this doesn’t mean you have to completely change your workout every time you go to the gym. In fact, no matter what your trainer told you, this theory has been scientifically proven to be outdated information.

The simple truth is that your body needs a progressive resistance in order to change, which is to say you have to make your body do something more difficult – not necessarily different – than it did the last time you worked out.

Easy ways to implement this include: increasing the amount of weight lifted, increasing the reps or sets, and performing a harder exercise or performing the exercise faster. Again, you can’t continue to work out to the same capacity and expect to get the same results. You have to continually progress, and therefore expand your capacity, in order to make your body change.

There’s no question it gets harder as you go, and in a strange way, the better shape you’re in, the harder you have to work to see results. But it can be done. If you follow these suggestions, I guarantee you will not stop getting results. You will not fail when it comes to both getting in shape, and staying in shape. And you will succeed in taking steps toward your goals no matter how advanced you are or what body type you have.

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