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Up Against The Wall...!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Just wondered if folks out there have any suggestions as although I've been really dedicated to my workouts I seem to have hit a wall over the past several months which has been frustrating.

My wall: I use the same amount of weights on my upper body / core strength training. I use most of the upper body / core exercises which are part of the Cybex VR-1 system at our fitness center:


I typically do strength training 3 times a week, 2 sets of 15 each with arm exercises, 2 sets of 20 on the abdominals & back extensions. Sometimes I'll throw a third set of 15 on top of them. But most times on the arm strength training I find myself having to back off a notch on the amount of weight I use.

My annoyance is that for all the weeks and months I've been doing this every time I do my strength training I find myself hitting the same wall: being just BARELY able to complete the last few reps of an exercise and sometimes on my 2nd set I even have to back off a notch on the amount of weight. I know it is important to increase the amount of weight one uses when you do strength training, but it just hasn't seemed possible for me. I'm sure doing the same-old, same-old is better than not doing it at all, however I'd like to get the most out of the time I invest in my strength training.

Similarly when I do cardio at the fitness center I do 30 mins. on the elliptical, usually the Octane 3700:


and 30 mins. on the upright stationary TrueFitness CS800 (sometimes rolling hills, sometimes hill intervals):


I find myself able to reach certain fitness numbers, i.e. distance, calories burned, etc. and just all SPENT, totally soaked & dripping with sweat and unable to push BEYOND those numbers. While I realize the calories burned is not accurate in the sense that they measure the actual number of calories that I've burned, but they are at least internally consistent as a means of measuring whether today's workout was better or worse than yesterday's.

I shake things up by going to Spinning class once, hopefully twice weekly and FINALLY got out for cross country skiing this past weekend. Once or twice a week I ditch the fitness center and opt for a fast walk / jog between offices or our local rail-trail for around 3-5 miles depending.

What do you think? Is this just hair-splitting and cabin fever leaking around the edges as I wait to hit the roads again with my bike? Should I just keep on keeping on and be satisfied with this? Or am I missing something that can make a difference in my workouts at the fitness center and bring greater rewards for my time and effort?

Appreciate any thoughts / feedback my wonderful SparkFamily may have!


PS...additional info: I never do my strength training on consecutive days, always a day in between. Despite all this have not been able to increase the weight I use for a LONG long time.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wow, Don, did you get this worked out, I hope? I also have to go with BOBBYD....that is exactly the same thing my buddy, Derek, told me when he worked me up a weight routine, and he used to bodybuild professionally so seems to know his stuff. I never went beyond 12 reps in any of my workouts, tho. And he said that when I began noticing that it was fairly easy for me to do my routines, it was time to upgrade some. I only reached a certain point with it and never chose to go beyond, tho, so I was happy to just keep doing what I was doing, which I suppose is not a 'good' thing! LOL
    2325 days ago
    Totally agree -- time for a tune up with the trainer. But I'm thinking the trainer is likely to tell you pretty much what BOBBYD thinks: that is, 8-10 reps rather than the 15 . . . and the "rest" weeks too.

    Are you doing cardio first, then ST? Apparently that does help as well.
    2336 days ago
    Another suggestion is to change up your lifting occasionally by lowering the weight significantly and doing each set to muscle failure, perhaps stepping down the weight between sets if you need to.

    It seems counter-intuitive but perhaps more rest days between workouts would help prepare for a leap forward.

    You are an inspiration, Don!
    2339 days ago
  • GIANNA345
    Are you eating enough protein to build muscle? I've read that you need 1.5 grams per pound of ideal body weight. If not, you may be losing the muscle you are trying to build. The book I've been reading is called: "You are your own gym," by Mark Lauren and Joshua Clark.
    2339 days ago
  • BOBBYD31
    ok i think i can help here don.

    * keep at 2 sets only per session
    * you are at 15 rep per set, what you need to do is increase weight but reps drop down to 8-10 for 3-6 weeks then increase reps by 2 (10-12), your last 2 reps should be a struggle to get them up. once you build to 15 increase weight and reduce reps
    * one week per month cut back ST sessions to max of 2

    cut your cardio workout every 3rd week by 30-50%

    reasons for the cut back is a recovery week for you body allowing the muscles to heal all the micro tears you cause when working out hard.

    you should notice improvements in both areas in a short time
    2339 days ago
    Do they have a fitness trainer at the gym? I would check with someone there with this question. I just don't know the answer to that.
    2339 days ago
    It sounds like your body has adapted to your routine and might want to switch things up a bit.
    For myself, using a stability ball or BOSU in my workouts have given me increases in my fitness level. Combining weight training while on ball or BOSU creates instability and forces more muscles to be involved ie bicep curls while seated on stability ball, lift a leg for extra fun - not easy!

    If you've never used stability balls/BOSU you could see if your gym offers classes or maybe a PT could create a routine for you..

    Try not to get frustrated and push for too much from yourself - there's a risk of overtraining there, and that would actually hinder strength gains.

    Good luck!
    2340 days ago
    No expert here either.....

    But, if the last few reps in weightlifting are just about impossible, that is the right amount of weight and repetition, as far as I know.

    Are you taking days off between lifting sessions? The muscles need the recovery time.

    I kind of had the thought that you may be doing too much.

    But, talk to an expert, maybe see your doctor.

    2340 days ago
    I would talk to an experienced trainer.
    2340 days ago
    I was thinking the same thing as our fellow Sparkers. Is it because your body is exhausted and isn't going through change to prevent a breakdown? Maybe you can change things to trick your body. Good luck.
    2340 days ago
  • L*I*T*A*
    i have no real comments as i too have been sitting on a long plateau......
    are there any trainers at your gym.....
    perhaps speak to them for suggestions....
    i say keep on keeping on.....
    stick it out...i can relate your frustration....
    all the best and hopefully someone here has your answers
    blessings and hugs..............lita

    > emoticon
    emoticon emoticon
    2340 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/27/2012 10:19:32 AM
    I agree that maybe you're just doing too much. I just read an article on the web about this topic. I'm not sure where I found it though. To me, it always seems harder to workout indoors when your used to working out outside. I miss my long outside walks. The treadmill just doesn't do it for me. The advantage though is I've started running and can't wait to do it outside. Just don't beat yourself up. Change things up a bit and I'm sure it will get better.
    2340 days ago
  • JLITT62
    Having read about some of your workouts, it's actually crossed my mind that maybe you're simply doing too much. Just throwing out food for thought! Muscles get stronger during recovery, when they can repair themselves.
    2340 days ago
    WOW, you are doing a lot to keep busy during the no-biking season. I don't know alot about weighs but I do know from doing P90X that the last two or three reps of an exercise should be hard, and this sounds like your case - so to me...you're doing it right. And mixing up all the different forms of exercise is a good thing, muscle confusion...excellent. I would just keep on doing what you're doing - staying busy, mixing it up, working hard. I'm no expert and I would like to see what others suggest, to see if you are missing something, but I don't really think so. The only thing I can think is maybe you are NOT eating enough for all those calories you're burning - just throwing that out there, something to look at.

    I'm sure you're probably suffering from a touch of cabin/spring fever amd Vitamin D withdrawls since you are such an outdoorsy kinda guy. Hang in there.
    2340 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/27/2012 9:21:51 AM
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