Monster Trucks & Bunnies – Plateaus Suck

I get this question daily: I'm stuck at X number of (insert exercise here) and I'm worried my parents won't love me anymore, my dog will run away and my Star Wars collectibles will be worth less now that the stupid show "Toy Hunter" got renewed for another season. OK, I made that last part up... but a for someone to send me an email (once again, I get these every day - so I know there are a *lot* of us that need this help) they are genuinely worried or frustrated.

Relax, we've all been there. Do you remember hitting a plateau at math in Algebra 1? No? That was just me? Well, no matter who you are, what you do or how well you are living your life, plateaus happen. Enzyte and Viagra would be out of business if everything kept working the same or getting better. Get over yourself and change something up or you're in danger of becoming one of the millions who choose the other option: quitting.

Here's an email I got today from my good friend Luke: (ok, I've never met him, but I bet we'd be friends, based mainly that he italicized the name of Steve's book in his original email!)

Hey, I was wondering if you could give me some advice regarding the 7 weeks to 100 pushups book. I am having a very hard time getting through Week 4 of the Advanced Level 1. This is the second week I’m trying to get through just week 4, because last week I couldn’t complete it’s Friday workout, so I thought I’d just do it again this week. Still no go. It takes extreme will power for me to get through the Wednesday workout, and I know for the last few pushups I’m not using the correct position I’m so shot. I warm up and use the stretches after the workout though sometimes my arms almost feel almost too shot for that. Is there something I’m doing wrong? Should I move back to somewhere in the Intermediate Level 2?

Hey Luke, looks like you hit a plateau like we all do, don't fret as it's really common.

There are a dozen things that can affect your push-up rep performance (rest, nutrition, hand position, weak supporting muscles, a deadline at work, the economy...) here a couple common things that are probably in-play:

- plateauing: strength

To fix, you need to strengthen your pecs, arms and core. Keep up with the program, redo as needed and vary hand position. I'll also use exercise bands across my back to make each push-up harder and do less. Raise your feet, raise your arms on a bench after 1/2 of the reps... shake it up. (more in "mental" below)

[NOTE: for pull-ups & dips, I'll hold a medicine ball between my feet, wear a weight vest or will use an exercise band or assisted pull-up/dip machine to do as many reps as I possibly can... anything to change the way my body has to react to a greater or lesser stimulus. To get through a distance plateau while running I think about bunnies and monster trucks... or bunnies driving monster trucks.]

- plateauing: endurance

This may be the way you're breathing, how much energy you put out in the early reps (bouncing, excess movement, etc.). Perform the exercise rhythmically; don't waste energy in the movement - "fal"l to your chest and push-up. If you're worried about the # of reps, don't waste arm strength lowering yourself very slowly. (of course, this builds more muscle from greater time under tension and is better long-run, but I digress)

- plateauing: mental - it's more common than you think

If you're hitting a road block, sometimes it's counting the reps that does you in, you're worried about hitting #20, so 17, 18 & 19 become increasingly more difficult. If you were worried about 25, it'd be the 3 reps leading up to it. This happens across the board, I was talking with athletes about this at an event on monday - why mile 5 is so hard if you're running 5, but if you're running 8 it seems easy... it's all about perception of what you *think* can/can't do and you're letting your mind defeat you before you get there. That last mile or last few reps is absolutely NOT the end-all-be-all challenge, so get that out of your head. You CAN go farther, faster and longer when you're not screwing your synapses up to short-circuit your possibilites (or something like that).

How to fix it: Take 2 days off from push-ups [NOTE: Insert exercise]; so if you haven't done the program today take tomorrow off. Saturday, pop in some earphones, warm up and rhythmically do as many as you can without thinking about counting. at all. it doesn't matter how many you do, just keep your form and do as many as you can. Rest for 2:00 and do another of your max without counting; it should be far less but who cares. When your back starts to sag and you lose your form just put all your effort into ONE good form push-up to end with. No matter how tired you are, you should be able to pull it all together to accomplish that last one. That's when you know you're in control of your body, not the other way around.

I also bet if you're losing form at the end that your core may need some work; I suggest you add some planks to your off-days, then check out the 300 Sit-Ups program when you're done with 100 Push-Ups.

Monster trucks & bunnies

- Brett

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