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Last Updated on February 24, 2021

Hit a Weight Loss Plateau? Here’s How To Break Through It

Hit a Weight Loss Plateau? Here’s How To Break Through It

I’ve done plenty of short and long diets in my life, successful and not-so-successful ones. What do all of these attempts have in common? In every single one of those endeavors, I’ve hit a weight loss plateau after a certain period of time. How I reacted to that weight loss plateau determined if the diet was turning out to be fruit-bearing or not.

In this article, you will learn how to overcome these inevitable setbacks on your journey and how to come back stronger than before.

Why You Hit a Weight Loss Plateau

Our bodies do not like to give away our energy storage.

It’s very unlikely that we had an ancestor that was happily exhausting himself in an environment where food resources were scarce. Instead, our hunter and gatherer predecessors evolved to shun energy loss.

That’s why the first few minutes of exercising are always a pain, even for the most advanced of athletes. David Goggins, Ex-Navy-Seal and finisher of multiple continuous 100-mile races, said this about running:

“I hate to run.” -David Goggins, experienced, ultra endurance runner and probably the toughest man alive

What Mr. Goggins is telling us with that thorough statement is that excess energy usage for no apparent survival-related gain produces negative feelings for just about anyone.

The point is that hitting a plateau is normal. Our genomes have evolved to store energy instead of being energy wasters, and that’s a good thing.

However, first we have to find out if we’re truly hitting a plateau or our mind is tricking us into believing so.

Is It Really a Weight Loss Plateau?

In the fitness center I manage, a young and ambitious young man once complained to me about his lack of weight loss results.

After 2 months of being on a strict and sustainable diet, his scale still showed him a rather small decline of 4 pounds. He strictly followed his trainers’ advice yet couldn’t see the results he hoped for. He felt cheated and even asked for a refund.

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Promptly, I inquired if the scale was the only way he measured his progress, and it was. This means he wasn’t taking into account pounds gained by building muscle.

It turned out that the frequent gym-goer did, in fact, see results. He was extremely satisfied with the view in the mirror and even got compliments from his friends and family. However, he based the results of his success solely on the reduction of his body weight, which means he based his happiness on an irrelevant number.

This is not the way to do it, and it certainly isn’t the way to know if you’re hitting a weight loss plateau.

When starting a diet, try to get at least 2 variables that you can measure. For example:

  1. Your body weight, and before and after pictures.
  2. Before and after pictures, and the circumferences of your major body parts (upper arms, thighs, waist, etc.)

This way, you can objectively decide if you’re truly hitting a plateau or if your mind is simply playing tricks on you.

How to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau

Once you’ve determined that you’ve indeed hit a plateau, here are a couple steps that you can follow to break through:

1. Take a Look at Your Goals

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” -Seneca

This is an old saying, yet so massively true in our day and age. You have to know where you’re going to be on the right path. That’s why it’s crucial that you’ve written down your goals before committing to this weight-loss journey.

If not, this is the time to do it. Reassess what you’re trying to reach and why. Humans are logical creatures, and we need a reason to do something in order to stay motivated.

Action:

Take at least 10 minutes out of your day, sit in a quite corner with a pen and paper, and get this step sorted. This the easiest step and probably the one that will create a big change in your life.

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2. Readjust Your Habits

If we’re following a diet long enough, we often let our habits slip without even noticing it. We unconsciously increase the portion size, decrease our effort in the gym, and buy unhealthier foods.

Just recently, I did a diet for a short vacation to Italy and hit a weight loss plateau. I struggled to find the reason until I noticed that I started to eat two reasonably-sized breakfasts every morning, instead of the usual one. One before the morning workout and one after.

This is quite common on a diet. We’re deluding ourselves and then rationalizing our behavior. “It’s just a one-time thing,” we say, or “I’ve earned that donut; it’s the way I treat myself.”

As weight loss is going against our ingrained nature, our brains are great at leading us subtly yet surely off-path. That’s why we need to reassess our goals, to now readjust our habits accordingly.

Action:

Take a picture of all the meals and beverages that you put in your body during the day. Are these aligned with your goals? Are you happy with what you put in your body?

Be honest with yourself, because our goals are not our goals if we don’t back them up with the right actions.

3. Be Urgently Patient

Once you’ve readjusted your nutrition and workout habits, the chances are pretty high that you’ve overcome the weight loss plateau already.

Now is the time to be urgently patient. This is a term Gary Vaynerchuk[1] uses when speaking of the business world. It means that, on the bigger scale, you should be patient, and on the smaller, minute-to-minute scale, you should act urgently.

Action:

Follow the proven steps noted above for at least 2 weeks, and give it your best effort. If you’ve seen a difference, go to step 1, and reassess your habits and goals. If you haven’t seen a difference, proceed to step 4.

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4. Add in Caffeine

There are numerous studies on green tea and its effectiveness on weight loss and health.

While green tea is an antioxidant-rich beverage that has been shown to slow down aging, it can also decrease your satiety and increase your overall weight loss.[2]

Implement 2 cups of green tea every single day to break through the plateau.

5. Eat This High-Calorie Food

Nuts contain a lot of calories, yet they’ve been shown to increase your weight loss by raising your calorie expenditure at the same time.

In fact, nuts, in addition to their dietary fiber, have been shown to be negatively correlated with weight gain over time.[3]

Add a handful of nuts to your breakfast to increase your satiety over the day.

6. Get Your Heart Working

Burning more calories by upping your work-load and re-energizing your exercise routine is one of the easiest ways to break through a weight loss plateau, but it’s also one of the most difficult.

In addition to breaking through weight-loss plateaus, this can help you have more energy and decrease your recovery time. I had to learn this the hard way.

Add 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio twice a week to boost your weight loss. To do this, check out Lifehack’s Simple Cardio Home Workout Plan to get closer to your weight loss goal and increase the number of calories you burn each day.

7. Extra Accountability Leads to Extra Progress

We’re social creatures, and a lot of the things that we do on a daily basis is to increase our reputation in the tribe that we live in.

Use this fact to your advantage. One of the easiest actions to exploit this natural human tendency is to post your progress pictures on Facebook or in a thread you have with family and friends.

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To put your accountability on steroids, train with a friend or hire a personal trainer for 3 months to kick-start your weight loss success.

8. Decrease Obesity-Causing Foods

Animal foods have been shown to be correlated with weight gain. But is it because vegetarians eat more plants, or less meat?

There was a study in 2012, observing over 3900 men and women, that found the group with increased meat consumption experienced more weight gain, even when both groups were controlled for fruit consumption, vegetable consumption, grain consumption, physical activity, and even calorie intake.[4]

Chicken was the meat most closely related with obesity. Decrease your intake of animal foods by substituting 3 chicken-based-meals per week with beans or legumes.

9. Take the Stairs

If you truly want to keep the weight off long-term and avoid the Yo-Yo effect, you need to adjust your habits.

Implement basic, physical activity in your day. You don’t need to run a marathon in the morning, but try to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to the supermarket instead of using your car.

Little changes go a long way, so try it out by avoiding the elevator for the next 7-days.

Summing It up

Hitting a weight-loss plateau is normal when doing a diet to get into the best shape of your life. The question is just how you react to these setbacks along your journey.

We have to first make sure that we truly hit a weight-loss plateau and our mind is not playing tricks on us. To do that, we have to reassess our goals and readjust our habits accordingly. Then, we can implement specific strategies to break through and move forward with our goals.

More on Boosting Weight Loss

Featured photo credit: Sam Moqadam via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Florian Wüest

Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss Hit a Weight Loss Plateau? Here’s How To Break Through It How to Gain Muscle Quickly and Naturally (A Step-by-Step Guide) Your Body on Caffeine Addiction: 70 Cups of Coffee in 7 Days The More Protein You Eat, the Faster You Build Muscles?

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come with myriads of benefits, such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness, which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

Benefits of Static Stretches

Static stretches come with tons of benefits that can help you make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

Improved Flexibility

If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1]

Although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

Prevent Injuries

If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and again that performing the right stretches pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

Think of it this way:

When you stretch, you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time, and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

Increased Blood Flow to the Joints

Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation, and removal of metabolites.

For static stretching, though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

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However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5]

Improvement in Recovery

If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling sore muscles for days.

Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibers back to their tip-top condition.

Research has shown that practicing static stretches after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released, and this encourages reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

  • Improved relaxation
  • Increased movement efficiency
  • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
  • Reduction in muscle tension
  • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
  • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
  • Relief from cramping

15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

1. Neck Stretch

    While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head, and place the other arm out to your side. Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing, and repeat for the opposite side.

    Many people tend to hold stress and tension in their neck and shoulders. If you find this is the case, this is one of the best static stretches to use for a muscle release in this area.

    2. Chest Stretch

      Stand upright, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks. While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

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      3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

      Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

        Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat, and extend one arm out in front to shoulder height. Grab the extended arm with your other arm, and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight. Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

        4. Triceps Static Stretch

          Lift your arms overhead, with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow. Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

          Many know this stretch from gym class, but it really is one of the best static stretches for the arms.

          5. Biceps Stretch

          Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch

            Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you. While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders, and chest. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

            6. Wrist Stretch

            11 Best Tennis Elbow Exercises For Pain Free Mobility [PDF]

              While standing up straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Grab your right fingers with your left hand, and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite arm.

              7. Side Stretch

                Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side. Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite side.

                The muscles down your side body are notoriously difficult to stretch out. This is one of the best static stretches to try on a consistent basis to get them loosened up.

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                8. Abdominal Static Stretch

                  Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up. While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push your upper body up from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                  9. Reclined Spinal Twist

                  Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan
                    Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor. While keeping the right leg straight, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side, and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.

                    Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground, and you should feel the stretch around your back. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                    10. Knees to Chest

                    Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                      Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent. Hold your shins, and pull your knees toward your chest. This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. If you’re looking to loosen up your back muscles, this is one of the static stretches you can do daily.

                      11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                      How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                        Stand upright in a standard lunge position, and place your two hands on your hips. Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                        12. Figure 4 Stretch

                        How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                          Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent. Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.

                          13. Standing Quad Stretch

                            Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture. With your left hand, grab a pole, wall, or anything durable for balance. With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.

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                            Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other side. This is one of the best static stretches for the quads.

                            14. Hamstring Stretch

                              Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent. Reach forward with your right hand, and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.

                              Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the left leg. If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead, but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                              15. Calf Stretch

                                Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you. Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.

                                Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg, if you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                When Should You Do Static Stretches?

                                Static stretching is great when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up routines before an explosive workout session.

                                This is because static stretches have a cool-down effect on each muscle group and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out, but do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body prepare better for the work ahead.

                                The Bottom Line

                                Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running. You need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training, and that’s the whole point of static stretches.

                                Starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine, and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                More Tips on Stretching

                                Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

                                Reference

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