This is the key that I have continued to miss throughout my time in the gym. It was always understood by me that if you wanted to get bigger and stronger then you had to lift heavy and you had to keep increasing the weight. I was never really told that I would plateau. Therefore when it happened it was an unexpected occurrence, and if it did happen then the answer was always to eat more, maybe rest a bit and keep on going. Therefore after about two months I would plateau and I would keep trying to go heavier without any success and this would then lead to over training and becoming generally worn down and ill. I have had times where I have gained 20 pounds in two months only to get sick and to lose it all. The reality of the situation is that if I had known then what I know now then I would have cycled my workout and been able to continue on with great improvement.
What is cycling your workout?
Cycling your workout is when you start your workout progression with a weight that you could perform easily and you continue to increase that weight until it gets to a point where you are no longer able to perform it any longer. At this point instead of becoming frustrated you simply drop that weight down to a lighter weight (but heavier than your previous starting weight) and work your way back up. This time you will find your new max to be heavier than your previous max. Through this cycling you are able to increase your weight over and over again without overtraining.
As an example we will take my current dead lift workout. When I began this workout I started with a weight of 200 pounds. I have added 2.5 pounds to each side every workout. I perform this 3 times a week, however you could do it upwards of 5 times a week. I continued to improve until I reached a weight of 245 pounds. At this time I had reached my max weight and was only able to perform 4 reps. I then dropped my weight down to 215 and continued to increase my weight in the same manner. This cycle brought me up to a max of 270. A very good increase. I was only able to perform 2 or 3 reps at this weight so I started over. I dropped the weight back down to 245 (my first max) and I have been increasing that weight steadily. I am currently in this cycle and have every reason to believe that I will sail right past my previous max. I’m currently at 280 and have every expectation that I will continue to increase.
I am doing this with my bent press as well except that I am adding 2.5 pounds to each side once a week instead of every workout. You can also do this with your cardio, in fact it is suggested. WIth the cardio you can cycle the time of the workout and the intensity of your workout by tracking your heart rate.
Two great books for more information on this are Power to the People by Pavel Tsatsouline and The Purposeful Primitive by Marty Gallagher. Power to the People is a great book to get you started and will get you very far and the Purposeful Primitive is a fantastic in depth book with loads of information that will suffice for years of training progressions and success.
I hope that this information helps you out and that you are able to continue to progress in your fitness. I know that it has helped me out tremendously with my current fitness goals.