It’s simple, but not necessarily easy.
Someone recently asked me “what is your strategy to overcome training plateaus?”
This is a great question, and one that a lot of people over complicate needlessly. Below is my response.
My strategy to overcome training plateaus is both to be patient and to fill gaps in your training. Patience, because in many cases you may have to wait months or years to overcome a given plateau (depending on how lofty your training goal is). In a big way, simply sticking with it, punchingthe clock, and following an appropriate and intelligently-crafted program will do the trick, and you’ll have to put aside your baseless desire to have each and every training session be a mile-a-minute thrill-ride. Often the most effective programs are the most boring.
Also filling gaps in your training is huge, because there are many things that we don’t do simply because we a) find them boring and uninteresting, or b) we suck at them. Perhaps not surprisingly, the stuff you suck at is often the stuff you need, and bringing up your weaknesses can work wonders in scaffolding your goals. Case in point: once I started adding straight-arm scapular strength into my training, my upper body strength went through the roof and various other movements that I was able to do with great difficulty I was now able to do with great ease, including effortless one-arm pushups for sets of 8 in a row per arm, double 28 kg Sots press (up from double 16 kg!), and so on.
Take the military press for example. Far too many kettlebell enthusiasts treat it as the end-all-be-all of upper body pressing strength, thereby completely ignoring any and all other pressing variations. All this serves to do is hurt their shoulders and keep them stalled. If they were to spend some time filling some gaps, such as weighted dips, bench press, one-arm pushup, handstand pushup, not to mention strengthening muscles that the average minimalist routine ignores (such as the muscles surrounding the scapulae) they would hit their military press goals much sooner and with greater ease. All they would have to do is take a step back and focus on the things they’ve ignored and they would find the path to their goals greatly shortened.
As Pavel has said, in order to be specifically strong, you must first be generally strong. You will always have a few “pet moves” that you can rely on being better than others, but taking that as your license to suck at everything else will stop your progress in its tracks.
So here are a few ideas for plateau breakers for your training.
1) Pick a pressing, pulling, squatting, hip-hinging, and loaded carry variation you’ve never done for more than a few sessions in a row.
2) Spend the next two months working on those and just working on perfecting your technique with them.
3) When the time comes, go back to your favorite pet lifts and build back up.
Odds are, you will feel much more solid, much stronger, and much happier. Hard to believe, but some of the best things in life are waiting where you most often avoid. Try it out and let me know how it works for you.