By Andre Newcomb
Here is a bodybuilding truism: every training regimen, no matter how sophisticated or effective, will, at some point, cease delivering results. Elite bodybuilders are masters of what to do when progress stalls. The only constant in bodybuilding is stagnation. That is the natural order of things. Progress is not the norm. Many neophyte athletes think that there is a magical system of weight training that once discovered and implemented will deliver incredible results endlessly. There is no such thing as the perfect training regimen, one that continually produces gains. Come to grips with the fact that overcoming stagnation is the key to bodybuilding success. At Parrillo Performance the classical strategies for dealing with stagnation are varied, vast, and encyclopedic. Over the years John Parrillo has compiled a staggering array of antidotes for stagnation. As John notes, “The human body always seeks homeostasis, a state of stagnation that it, the body, perceives as normal and desired. The body will strive to neutralize the ‘training effect’ of whatever training regimen you are subjecting it to. No matter how effective a program is or has been, be aware that at some point, gains will cease.”
The difference between the elite bodybuilder and the beginner bodybuilder is the elite sense stagnation when it first appears and will quickly install new training strategies. As soon as stagnation appears, the pro rotates in a new and fresh battle-tested strategy. The beginner ‘knows’ his current system works because he obtained gains when he first started using it. He becomes attached to a way of training and comes to enjoy the type and style of workout. It becomes entrenched and the gains dry up. But the beginner keeps plowing ahead, piling up one workout after another, that has ceased delivering the gains desired.The pro has progress stimulators waiting in the wings, ready to roll out at a moment’s notice. The smart bodybuilder possesses an arsenal of alternative tactics. We offer you ten tried-and-proven stagnation busters. One (or more) might set you back on the pathway of progress. As serious fitness types, bodybuilders and athletes, we seek an increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in body fat. Nutrition and supplementation can also be expertly used to rekindle stalled progress. These ten tips have all been proven effective. Selecting and implementing the right tip at the right time can create momentum where there is inertia.
1. Stop what you are doing: the old cliché goes, ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’ Nowhere is this truer than in training. If your training has not delivered any results for 4-6 weeks, stop doing what you are doing, it isn’t working! A dead program is not going to suddenly start working just because you wish it. Having said this, do not use this strategy as an excuse to bounce from one new training protocol (or diet) another after only a week’s tryout. Hold the course for a solid month as that is a reasonable amount of time for a tryout. Know when to fold your hand.
2. Strike out in the opposite direction: once you have determined that a system or strategy is dead in the water, time to make a change. The most common mistake made is to alter what you have been doing slightly. Tiny changes are no changes at all. Shifting your reps from 8 to 10, dropping rice from one meal, adding another set of leg curls, these are tiny changes and not sufficiently different. We need to shock the body and dramatic change is called for if progress is to be rekindled. Be bold. Make big changes. Once a system has proven itself and delivered results, use it fully and completely, then put it on the shelf for future use. Develop a closetful of effective training regimens. Rotate them on a regularly reoccurring basis. A large variety of proven-effective training and diet regimens creates the variety necessary to create the contrast needed to blast the body out of its complacency.
3. Changing resistance training: once a resistance training program stops delivering results, time to institute a new and different approach. There are several areas to consider when seeking to create the contrast necessary to reignite progress. Volume: if you have been training using a high volume/moderate intensity approach, switch to a low volume/high intensity approach. Reps: If you’ve using moderate reps, 8-10, shift to 15s or triples. Exercise selection: switch out exercises; go from back squats to front squats, shift from wide-grip paused barbell benches to touch-and-go dumbbell benches. You get the idea. Frequency: if you’ve been training twice a week for 90-minutes, a radical change would be to shift to five 30-minute sessions per week. Consider resistance training in terms of frequency, duration, set and rep strategies and intensity.
4. Goosing cardio: to create cardio contrast consider mode, tool, frequency, duration, timing and intensity. Changing modes: if you’ve been running on a treadmill, perhaps run outside. If you have been swimming, switch to running. If you’ve been running, switch to swimming. Alter duration: if you’ve been doing long sessions, switch to shorter more intense sessions. Frequency: how many times a week is cardio performed? Cardio timing: early morning cardio has differing effect then cardio done later in the day. How hard, how long, how often? Switch to something exciting and different. In the Parrillo approach towards cardio, profuse sweating is a key positive indicator. John Parrillo wants bodybuilders to push to and past their limits in every cardio session. Regardless the mode, frequency, duration or timing, goosing the component parts to create contrast is the key to stimulating aerobic gains.
5. Switch gears nutritionally: even within the specific parameters of a classical Parrillo-style bodybuilding diet, result-producing, stagnation-busting radical contrast is possible. Nutritionally, the most obvious radical change would be to shift from a mass-building phase into a lean-out phase, or vice versa. All true bodybuilders (and serious fitness adherents) are goal oriented: they always have a goal. You should too: a specific direction is paramount. Once the primary goal or direction is established, i.e., add muscle or melt off fat, the goal is set into a timeline. In the Parrillo approach, the natural tendency is to swing back and forth, pendulum-like, from adding mass to chiseling mass, in a natural ebb-and-flow. Quality calories are required regardless of direction. Depending on the goal, meal timing usually stays intact, but caloric volume is manipulated, and food selections and supplements are “switched out.”
6. Switch out supplements: the Parrillo approach always aligns supplements with the overarching goal. Adding lean muscle mass would suggest a different selection of supplements from those used in a lean-out phase. The bodybuilder seeking to switch out supplements gets to choose from a wide array of potent Parrillo supplements. For example, if the athlete decided to commence a 10-12 week lean-out phase, the Parrillo Soft Chew bar™ is ideal, packing 22 grams of protein and containing a scant 120 calories, this is the perfect lean-out supplement and delicious taste treat. Conversely, if the athlete was seeking to add lean muscle mass, the Parrillo Protein bar™, with 240 “clean” calories would be ideal. Pro-Carb™ and CapTri® are mass-builder favorites. Optimized Whey™ protein powder, Soft Chew bars and CapTri® (again!) are favored by those leaning out. Within the potent world of Parrillo® supplementation lies a vast variety of flavor and taste choices. Be creative and change the supplements to suit the goal.
7. Tighten up! This means taking your level of commitment to the next level, in every area and in every aspect. Lifting, cardio, nutrition and supplementation all need cold self-assessment: what can you do to take your efforts in training or diet to the next level? Think of ways to tighten up the nutrition. How can you change up the weight training? Let’s get creative with cardio. Can we go harder, longer, faster or more often? Make a concerted, concentrated effort to never miss a training session and never miss a meal. This time, no false starts, no mulligans, no falling off the wagon. Get over this idea of a “cheat day.’ There are no cheat days or cheat meals in the Parrillo approach. Get on task and get real there are a million ways to tighten up the training, eating or supplementing.
8. Balanced application: if you are thirty pounds overweight and love to lift, yet you consistently neglect cardio and have a bad diet, guess what – in addition to tightening up your eating, you need to reapportion available training time, cut back on your beloved lifting and get serious about cardio, diet and getting fit and lean. Rectify weak points, stop continually playing to your strengths. If you are skinny and weak and love cardio, if you barely strength train, then guess what – in addition to straightening out your nutrition, you need to reapportion available training time, shift into some serious strength training and add muscle and vitality to your already super-fit physiology. Optimal balance is sought between lifting, cardio, nutrition and supplementation.
9. Incorporate unique Parrillo training enhancers: there are aspects to the Parrillo methodology that are unique and are proven stagnation busters. Parrillo trainees use modes and methods designed to take a muscle past its capacity. This is true for both resistance training and cardiovascular training. In resistance training, Parrillo makes use of forced reps, drop sets, extended sets and giant sets. The goal of Parrillo intensity enhancers is to utterly and completely exhaust muscle capacity on every level. This same philosophy is carried over into Parrillo-style cardio. Use the sprint/interval approach or the classical steady-state pacing. Regardless the pace, Parrillo insists the cardio athlete work as hard as possible in every session. The cardio gains and the progressive resistance gains lie in continually strive to improve personal best training efforts. When looking for ways to generate progress, look for ways to safely and consistently exceed current capacities.
10. Start stretching: without doubt the most overlooked and underused aspect of the Parrillo approach to bodybuilding is Parrillo’s inclusion of fascia stretching into the bodybuilding template. If you are stagnant and if you are not currently using fascia stretching, its sudden inclusion (done right!) is a guaranteed progress-stimulator. The idea is pure genius: after pumping a target muscle, stretch that same targeted muscle. Use a stretch that forcibly elongates and expands fascia, the sausage-like tube that encases every muscle. Fascia stretches can be self-administered or amplified when applied by a training partner. The stretch is done after each set of every major exercise. If you are stuck and not stretching, the sudden inclusion of a comprehensive fascia stretching routine will kickstart progress.
Pull the trigger: dealing with stagnation is the essence of bodybuilding. Success in bodybuilding is all about calling on the right technique and tactic at the right time. The goal is to jolt the body out of its beloved homeostasis. Many trainees bristle at phrases like “shock the body” and “jolt the muscle” and “traumatize the body” but these phrases are truly descriptive of the severity of physical effort required. The human body doesn’t casually build muscle – it is forced to build muscle by stressing it (the body) past current capacities. The human body doesn’t casually give up its stored body fat – it is forced to burn body fat through the skillful combining of intense, prolonged and consistent cardio coordinated with a tight and disciplined Parrillo-style bodybuilder diet. The ten stagnation busting tips offered all seek to subject the body to something new and different. The best way to reignite dead-in-the-water progress is to embrace the idea that you need to do things dramatically different. Stop continually playing to your strengths and try some radically different approaches. Think outside the box!