There comes a time in everyone's training journey when we stop making gains. Most people start looking for another spin-off of high-intensity training or begin to lift heavy every day, but a better strategy would be to seek the help of a professional.

With an absolute wealth of resources available at places like elitefts, taking a small amount of time to understand why your progress has stopped will allow you to start taking inventory as to what might be going wrong with your training.

What's included in this list does NOT include the obvious measures like aerobic work, GPP work, or using a conjugate plan—things I've talked about numerous times. Instead, I'm assuming you've already read that material and have considered those things first. If not, that would be the best place to start as those are likely the solution to your lack of progress.

MORE: GPP Training: You're Doing It Wrong

Either way, these strategies are worth considering and will, at the very least, allow you to start thinking about things you can control. If all else fails, you have a choice of a long list of great online programming services to help you to advance your progress.

20. Use the Max Effort Method

Decrease your higher repetition work and include more 1RMs. Oftentimes trainees forget to include max effort work for fear of getting injured. If you rotate your max effort work weekly, the risk of injury is low, assuming you already have efficient movement patterns. In fact, there is no better way to improve neuromuscular efficiency and motor patterns.

19. Use Compensatory Acceleration Training

Use Compensatory Acceleration Training (deliberately trying to accelerate the bar through the concentric range of motion, i.e., Dynamic Effort Method).

Try using only 40-50 percent of your 1RM in a movement like a bench press. Perform nine sets of three every 30-45s where you deliberately try to be as explosive as possible on each set while still maintaining proper mechanics and bar path. You may be surprised just how challenging this work is.


18. Change Your Ramp-up Strategy

Spending an exorbitant amount of time warming up can take away from your actual training session. Keep your warm-ups short and efficient. Ten minutes should be all you need to prepare for your training to include tissue work, correctives, activation drills, priming the main movement, and driving the central nervous system.

17. Use Smaller Increments to Hit New Rep Maxes

It's easy to get greedy and make jumps that may be too big. Have a goal to beat your current 1RM by five pounds and move on.

16. Use Contrast Methods

Also known as heavier loads followed by lighter loads. Another example would be to use a dumbbell between your feet for a weighted pull-up and then drop the dumbbell performing subsequent reps with just bodyweight.

15. Use Concentric Based Movements

Concentric based movements are a favorite of ours to build absolute strength. They also allow us to work sticking points with the squat, deadlift, and press variations. They also tend to be easier to recover from.

14. Get a Qualified Coach

Check the coach's credentials outside of how great of an athlete they are or what they look like.

13. Ensure Rest Periods Are Optimal

A maximal deadlift may require up to three to five minutes of rest between your maximal efforts, whereas speed work should be completed every 45-90 seconds. Context is key.

12. Take Short Breaks From Your Regular Training

Oftentimes we get "stale" with our current routine. Going outside your comfort zone may give you the spark you need to get re-motivated. You may also learn something about yourself you didn't know, in terms of what training methods work best for you.


11. Use Fewer Exercises in Your Session

It's easy to get "exercise ADHD" and choose too many movements. Keep your training session concise and have a plan before going into the gym.

10. Use Fewer Exercise Variations

It has always been "keep the body guessing," but that thinking has caused people to vary their programming far too much. We often see box programming affiliates where their clients complain about doing the same warm-up twice in the same week. How can you improve upon motor patterns by only doing something once in a while?

There is a fine line between too much variation and not enough variety. Finding what resonates with you is your best bet, but consider the fact that after four weeks, most will incur accommodation to the same exercises, loading parameters, and intensities. Making adjustments is important if you want to keep making gains.

If you love variety, four weeks will likely be too long, and one week is not long enough to know what works for you and what does not.

We've found that two weeks for TYPE A people is the magic number. This gives us time to improve mechanics and discover whether or not an exercise variation scratches you where you itch.

9. Decrease Training Frequency

If you train five to six times a week, try training three to four times a week. You might be shocked to see that your progress starts to move forward again by implementing this strategy.

8. Add Isometrics

Performing loaded isometrics holds at crucial points in your lifts. These may be difficult to be done at most commercial gyms, but if you have the ability to set up pins in a squat rack, you can use them at crucial points in your lifts like bench press, deadlift, and overhead press.

For instance, set up your pins for your conventional deadlift, where you pull the bar to the pins and then hold against the pins for three to six seconds of all-out effort. For most, a good starting point is at knee level.

There is a fair amount of research to support the positive training effects of isometrics in terms of improving neuromuscular efficiency and maximal force a muscle or muscle group can generate.

Moreover, isometrics can be used to ramp up the sympathetic nervous system before training and utilize post-potentiation activation.


7. Add Active Recovery Sessions

Include active recovery work in your training week. Aerobic work can be done in a variety of ways and is proven to facilitate recovery. My favorite variations include attaching a sled to my weight belt and pulling 20 minutes with a light load. The goal here is consistent low-output work.

My favorite active recovery session consists of:

  • 20 minutes of easy cardio: 10 minutes on the treadmill + 10 minutes on the bike @120-130BPM
  • 5 Minutes of total body foam rolling
  • 5 Minutes of total body static stretching
  • 5 Minutes of meditation with parasympathetic breathing

We prescribe the last three recovery modalities at the end of just about every training session as a "cool-down" to start the recovery process.

6. Add the Landmine

The landmine has been an absolute changer to my programming and my clients over the last year. The landmine affords us the ability to press and squat from a new position that is great for variation and aligns better with most people's goals and needs.

For instance, the landmine turns the squat into a more hip-dominant movement, so it trains where more people are weak (posterior chain). It also allows people who would otherwise have issues going overhead with a traditional barbell overhead press to train the same pattern with better posture.

5. Use Accommodating Resistance

Use accommodating resistance in the form of band tension or chains. This may be another tool that may be hard to find in a commercial gym, but many boxes have a few sets of chains and have the ability to set up bands.

Accommodating resistance provides tension throughout a full range of motion and will help prevent bar deceleration. We can also work with lighter loads and overload the lockout of our movements.

4. Use Specialty Bars

Invest in different barbells, such as a safety squat bar (SSB), football bar, or bamboo bar. Specialty bars are an amazing tool and can keep you in the game even if you're injured.

Many trainees can not properly front squat, but using the safety-bar can provide a similar stimulus where their lack of flexibility limits the athlete. You can also do cool things with the SSB, like the overhead press, triceps extensions, and back raises. The SSB, football, and bamboo bars are my top choices.


3. Find a Training Partner

Finding a training partner may be the single best thing you can do for your training. Just make sure your partner takes their training as seriously as you do first.

2. Track Your Heart-Rate Variability

Having the ability to use data to assess trainability is something I would highly recommend. Feeling good can be a state of mind. After three hard days of training, I’ve still felt “fine,” but my HRV confirmed otherwise, as it should if you’re training with enough volume/loading.

Many times athletes feel great, and instead of taking an “active recovery” day on their fourth day of training, they push the envelope. Instead of allowing yourself to make that decision, use a tool like Morpheus to eliminate the chance of your own subjectiveness.

1. Start Training From Home

Most people that follow Box Programming know that we train in our garage, so of course, advocating things that we're partial to is inevitable, but training from home is awesome in many ways. The obvious benefits include:

  • Train when you want
  • Train how you want
  • Never have to wait for a piece of equipment

This has been the single best investment to a family's health and wellness that I would highly recommend. The best part is that you can start slow by getting enough equipment (less than 1k worth) to perform one to two workouts a week from home. Eventually, as you accumulate more equipment, you can increase training frequency from home.

Even having the ability to do things like active recovery training from home will improve the quality of your life and progress. If you're interested in learning more, check out this article.


These strategies will not only improve your training but, most importantly, your quality of life. Your training should never take away from your life outside of the gym.

Hitting new personal records is always rewarding, but being excited to train and feeling good thereafter should take precedence. Usually, when the latter happens, the former is more regular.

Supplemental Reading

Image credit: RX Photography