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Exercise plateau - Are you exercising but not getting fitter?

The main reason I wrote my book, Rugby fitness training: A twelve month conditioning programme, was from the fact I kept meeting so many rugby players and keen exercisers who were training hard but not making improvements.

It is such a frustrating place to be, I would know, as I spent three years training but not getting fitter before I discovered the secrets to breaking this tiresome cycle. I decided to share my knowledge and wrote the book.

To understand how you can get to a stage where you are training, but not getting fitter, this is called being stuck on a plateau, you must understand how your body improves fitness. This is explained by the theory of adaptation.

The theory of adaptation.

The theory of adaptation states that when the you are presented with a new exercise stimulus, e.g. running 2 miles, lifting an 80 kg weight etc, the body is shocked by what it experiences and reacts by changing itself so it can cope with this stimulus if it is encountered again in the future.

The body changes the physical ability that was stressed during the exercise e.g. in response to jogging, increases occur in aerobic fitness; through lifting an 80kg weight the body adapts by increasing strength and muscle size. This response to exercise is the underlying theory used in designing exercise programs and why we do exercise.

When the body no longer perceives the exercise you are performing as a new stimulus it will not change to adapt to the exercise. Your body will stay at the same level of fitness. At this point exercising will not produce any fitness improvements and you are said to be at on a plateau.

In my experience this is where 80% plus of regular gym users are and the reason why so many people join gyms and leave a few months down the line. The problem is when the body gets bored, the brain follows not too long afterwards. At this point you find your exercise enthusiasm disappears and many people drop out or begin just suffer to the boring exercise.


The solution is Periodization, the all encompassing theory of how to design training programmes to optimize performance. Used by every professional athlete the basic principles must be employed by anyone who does exercise or tries to keep fit.

It can be summed up by the statement ‘structured variation’. It is the way to change your training programme from week to week and month to month to ensure that the body does not get bored.

A simple example of this would be to change your training programme every four weeks. Another method would be to change the reps you perform or the level you use, for example if you normally do 15 reps on the weights, try doing 10 reps for the next 3 weeks, then drop down to 5 reps for the three weeks afterwards and take a weeks recovery before returning to 15 reps once more. You will now be at a higher weight than where you were at the beginning. For cardio try introducing interval training.

The concepts of periodization is a corner stone of my courses to ensure lifelong exercise success.

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