3 Ways to Break Through Training Plateaus

We all know training is hard. And once you are past those beginner gains days it takes a lot of work to improve in the gym and on the pitch. For the majority of your training you should be focused on sensible progression methods and steadily improving your physical capacities. But anyone who has trained for any length of time knows that at some pint you will hit a wall and find progress very hard. Here are our favourite ways to breakthrough plateaus and improve when we need to most…

Cluster Training

Cluster training is our go to training method to get stronger quickly and plays a big part in our stronger for rugby programme. It basically involves short rest periods (10-20s) between reps to allow more work to be completed with a heavier weight. It relies on the initially quick recovery of the ATP-CP energy pathway but is hard on the nervous system so should be used sparingly. Here is a good example:

@ 90% 1RM Perform 3 sets of 5(1) 10-15s inter rep rest period

The number outside the brackets is the total number of reps performed per cluster set and the number in the brackets is how many reps to perform before each rest period. It is important to re rack the weight in between each rep for recovery.

You can see with this method you can get 5 reps with a weight you would normally only get 3 so this is a powerful technique to use.

Rugby Strength Training: Cluster Training

The Opposite Method

This is an old technique used by PT’s to get some initial results with new clients! Basically if you have been training the same way for an extended period of time your body will begin to build resistance to adaptation. So we literally swap and do the opposite training approach and “hey presto” the gains begin coming!

Let’s say for example, you have been trying to build muscle for any extended period of time and your gains have stalled. You have been stressing your muscles for a long time so change things up by targeting adaptations of the nervous system. Switch to an explosive training block allow the muscles to recover whilst still being stimulated and enhance your nervous systems ability to contract.

Once you return to hypertrophy training your nervous system will be wired to recruit more muscle and get more out of the higher rep training. Plus you’re more explosive which ultimately is more important for a rugby player!

Try the opposite method for 4-6 weeks then switch back to your ultimate training goal and watch as you make progress again. Some strength coaches even suggest using a deload week as an opportunity to train the opposite way to stimulate this response.

Eccentric Training

Eccentric training is where you accentuate the eccentric portion (the lowering portion) of a lift by either slowing the movement down or increasing load to the eccentric portion. England Rugby reportedly used eccentric focused training to increase strength prior to the 2003 World Cup because they knew it would increase strength and confidence as well. Here are 3 good ways to use eccentric training in your programmes, you’ll need a good training parter for two of them!

Slow Eccentrics

Here you simply lift using a tempo where you lower the bar in 5-6 seconds and lift explosively. Obviously this is harder than normal so you will have to drop the load. Use similar loading patterns to traditional strength work 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps.

Partner Resisted Eccentrics

Here you still lower slowly, about 3-4 secs, but you have the addition of your partner pushing on the bar to increase the load during the eccentric (they obviously release for the concentric portion of the lift!). Lower reps should be used here as it is pretty demanding.

Overload Eccentrics

These are very demanding and advanced and shouldn’t be your first choice of eccentric training.

You load the bar with 105-110% of 1RM and lower the bar under control. With squats just perform a few singles (1-3) after your main lift with presses you may be able to perform 2-3 reps with your training partner helping on the concentric.

Again eccentric training is very demanding on the nervous system and joints so use sparingly 2 weeks maximum.

So there you go 3 training methods to bust through plateaus and take your performance to another level! Used sparingly as part of a sensible progression approach and you will have a great way to keep improving for the long haul.

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