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Nothing can be more frustrating than not being able to gain strength when weight lifting.  You’re finally able to bench that 165 pounds, only to discover you aren’t able to move beyond it.  Don’t worry, it’s happened to everyone. Plateaus of any kind can be tough to break. If you find you’ve reached a standstill at the gym, here are six tips to help you move beyond your current limits. 

Change the Exercises

This is probably the most common advice you hear, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The human body becomes conditioned to the same workout over the course of a few weeks. For example, if you’ve been doing tricep extensions for a while and aren’t getting the results you once did, switch over to skullcrushers to challenge the same muscles in a new way.

Lower Weights with Higher Reps

Not just by a few pounds. Try at least 50-60 percent less than you were lifting before. With this, complete a higher amount of reps, like five sets of 20 or 10 sets of 10. This helps stimulate other muscle fibers for growth. Do it for a couple weeks and then start lifting the heavier weights again.

Negative-only Exercises

Find out your one-rep max. Take a weight 125-200% more and focus only on the concentric (flexing) portion of the exercise. For example, with a bicep curl, using your free hand, assist your arm in a hammer curl. Then using only the target arm, slowly lower the weight back down. This eccentric/negative phase helps build strength and muscle. As a caution, some exercises such as a bench press, require the help of a spotter.

Work the Opposite Muscle Group

To develop the maximum amount of strength, you want to make sure that the opposite muscle group isn’t lagging behind. If you want a strong chest, for example, don’t neglect your upper back. If you want large biceps, be sure to work your tris accordingly.

Achieve Balance

To be able to lift more weight, you have to be able to safely balance more weight. And even if you’re good at balancing 100 pounds while doing a squat, that doesn’t mean you're prepared to stabilize 150. Read up on stabilization here.


You might be over trained. Don’t further anger your muscles.  They aren’t forgiving if you mistreat them. Pull back a bit. Taking a few days off to let yourself recover is one of the best things you can do for healthy muscle growth.   Photo Courtesy of: Mike
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