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How Do You Know When You’ve Reached a Workout Plateau?

Staff Post

Posted on October 04 2017

You go to the gym and spend an hour working out 5 times a day every week. Suddenly, you realise you’re not improving or seeing results anymore. You’re not as exhausted as you used to be or as fulfilled after finishing a workout. This feeling is called workout plateau and it means you’ve already adapted to it. What do you do then? Well, you need to overhaul your workout routine. Adapting to your workout means you’re not reaping the benefits of exercise anymore, thus wasting your time at the gym. Here are some signs to know if your workout plan just isn’t doing it for you anymore. We’ve also included new motivations to change up your routine in order to reap the benefits of exercise.


If you have the energy to form a coherent sentence or a full-fledged conversation with your workout partner, then you’re definitely not as efficient in the gym as you’d like to believe. A great sign of knowing whether your workout regimen is ‘working’ is if you feel out of breath during the whole process. You need to be focused in keeping your proper form while lifting as much weight or exerting as much effort as you can. If you can carry a conversation while doing bicep curls or squats, then you’re not really improving or maximising your exercise. What you should do is not to cut off socialising completely but do it during your rest periods (which shouldn’t last long, make it max 30 seconds per set). When it’s time to exercise, do not go chit-chatting with your friend. You’re also hindering them from progressing in their workout plan. Focus on you, your form and how much you’re lifting. Be sure to lift enough to create stress and a little soreness the next day.


When you’ve been running a 5km run and have the energy to lift weights, do yoga, circuit training and boxing all in the same day then you’re not exerting as much effort to all your workouts as you’d like to think. If you’ve really worked a muscle, you should be feeling fatigued and won’t have the energy to do anything else. Doing multiple workouts with improper form and low effort requirement might lead you to possible injuries in the future. Also, if you’re not feeling fatigued, it means you have already adapted to your usual workout. So change it up or increase your weight or effort during your workout. Doing combinations of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) with stretching exercises like yoga is a perfect workout combo where your muscles will be toasted for sure.


If you’ve noticed that you’re not losing weight anymore or gaining muscles for weeks and you’ve been consistent with your workout schedule and regimen, then that means you’ve already reached the plateau. This, although can reduce stress and increase endurance, is not effective for reaping the benefits of exercise such as lowering cardiovascular disease rates and metabolic disorders. If you’ve been hitting the same target for 4 weeks consecutively then it’s time to increase your load or harden your regimen. Another thing would be to shake up your current workout routine and try something new. Do this every 4-6 weeks so that your body doesn’t get adapted to the same old routine, helping you reap the benefits of exercise. Always aim to improve every time you workout. Always push to increase your reps, your weight, and your distance.


If you’re like me, then you probably use the amount of sweat you’ve drenched your new workout clothes with as an indicator of a hard day’s work in the gym. Well, there’s a truth to this principle because your body sweats to thermoregulate. So if you’re sweating then that means there’s a lot of work going on in your body that’s producing excess heat. Even if you’re working out in the winter, breaking a sweat can indicate how intensely you’ve worked out. If you’ve barely even shed a few drops of sweat then there must be something wrong with your workout. The lack of sweaty pits can mean that you’re not lifting a heavy enough weight or you’re not pushing yourself hard enough during your cardio exercise. So don’t be afraid to sweat during your workouts and increase the intensity of your routine.


Sweating can be used to tell you how intense your workout routine is but it’s a poor indicator since some people sweat more or less than others. A better way to tell you how much effort you’re actually putting into your exercise is by monitoring your heart rate. Even if you felt like you’ve given your all to your routine, if your heart rate isn’t higher than 70% of your max heart rate then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Targeting a range of 80-95% is what you should do to be able to say that you’ve actually reached your full potential. A tip for targeting your workout would be to buy one of those heart rate trackers or exercise watches (like FitBit) and use them while you’re warming up and doing your cardio. You can also wear them even outside the gym if you’re conscious of how active you are throughout the day.

If you recognised yourself in one or all of the scenarios listed above, then it’s time to start rethinking your workout strategy. Always aim for total improvement in all aspects including your workout. Don’t just stick to meh workout plans or okay results. Push and motivate yourself because you can do more than you allow yourself to achieve. But in all this, be sure to always consult your doctor first because he’ll be able to tell you if you’re already overworking yourself.

Do you have other tips on how to tell if one has already outgrown their workout routine? Feel free to share it with us in the comments section below.