Fact #1: Different people have different goals.

Fact #2: To attain different goals, people must train differently.

Fact #3: No matter the goal, exercise and fitness plateaus happen, and they’re frustrating for everyone.

Fact #4: Getting through an exercise plateau is not the same for everyone. See facts #1 and #2.

If you’re struggling to fight through a plateau and you don’t know where to turn, you’ve come to the right place! In light of the differences between fitness goals and training methods, GirlsGoneSporty turned to Brandon Henry, an NASM and CrossFit certified trainer with a B.A. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the owner of South Pasadena’s Performance Strength & Conditioning to provide three different plateau-busting workouts designed with three different fitness goals in mind!


  • Fitness goal: Lose more body fat and lean out

Whether you’re trying to lean out to attain a healthy body fat percentage or you just want to feel better about yourself in a bikini, hitting a fat loss stall can be incredibly frustrating.

Henry points out that in this situation, it’s important to “make sure sleep is on point and stress is controlled to minimize cortisol release. This can make a large difference in body fat loss.” If you’re on track in terms of sleep and stress, go ahead and take a look at your workout, “Adding in short, high intensity circuits with adequate rest times can give your workout a boost.” Not sure where to start? Try this quick circuit designed by Henry:

  • 30 seconds goblet squat
  • 30 seconds plyometric box Jumps
  • 30 seconds two-arm dumbbell press
  • 30 seconds burpees

Rest two to three minutes after completing a circuit to ensure that each circuit is completed in the 95 to 97 percent effort range. Aim to cycle through the circuit four to five times, but if you find your form diminishing due to exhaustion, just do what you can.

Plateau-busting workout # 2: Improve running times

  • Fitness goal: Improve running times

When you’re a runner, cyclist, swimmer or triathlete, you’re probably competing against yourself as much as you’re competing against others.

Seeing your run times stagnate and your next PR remain as elusive as finding a silverback gorilla in its natural habitat is almost enough to make you throw in the towel. Don’t! According to Henry, the solution may be easier than you think:

“The problem usually is too much aerobic-based training and not enough weightlifting with anaerobic running. In my experience, there’s a myth that in order to run faster 10k, half-marathon or full marathon times, you must run more miles. This often leads to over-training and body breakdown. Reducing the long, slow distance mileage and upping speed intervals, hill intervals, sprints and smart weightlifting exercises that strengthen the hamstrings, glutes and midsection can drop minutes of a race time.”

Need help making over your routine? Henry suggests replacing one long mileage day with a workout like this one:

20 to 30 minutes of weight training incorporating exercises like straight leg deadlifts, plank holds, single-leg squats, kettlebell work and lower-back strengthening work

Follow strength work up with 20 to 30 minutes of interval training. For example, run for 30 seconds at 90 percent effort followed by 30 seconds at 50 percent effort, continuing to cycle between the intervals for 20 minutes. As an alternative, try running quarter-mile repeats where your work time (the time it takes to run the distance) equals your active rest time.

For instance, if it takes you 95 seconds to run a quarter mile at a near all-out effort, you would rest for 95 seconds following your run. Just remember to continue moving during your rest time – a walk or slow jog is sufficient.

Plateau-busting workout #3: Increase strength

  • Fitness goal: Increase strength

Admittedly, this is a less-cited goal for women, but increased strength can pay off dividends when it comes to sport and athletic performance. Henry notes that “the woman trying to increase strength usually needs to reduce the total volume of cardio she’s doing, stop focusing on single isolation movements (like hip abduction and adduction, leg curl and triceps kickbacks, just to name a few) and increase the amount of lean protein eaten.”

He goes on to mention that it may be time to re-prioritize your workout, focusing on weight training first, before cardio when you’re at the gym. When you lift weights first, you’ll have more energy to focus on strength training, which may help you see bigger gains.

Also, if you spend a lot of time on cardio, it may be time to cut back. Henry suggests keeping it to 15 minutes, although that may vary depending on your specific situation and the sport you’re training for.

Need some ideas for training? “Adding in explosive movements like lower body plyometrics, kettlebell exercises, Olympic weightlifting and sprinting (less than 20 seconds at max effort) will help the body make the shift to gaining strength, usually without any bulking.”

Try this on for size:

  • 2 sets squats: 8-12 repetitions so that the last one or two reps are almost too hard to perform
  • 2 sets burpees, perform each set to exhaustion
  • 2 sets power cleans: 8-12 repetitions so that the last one or two reps are almost too hard to perform (focus on form and technique first, followed by speed)
  • 2 sets jumping pullups, perform each set to exhaustion
  • 2 sets one-arm kettlebell swings, 8-12 repetitions so that the last one or two reps are almost too hard to perform (focus on form and technique first)
  • 2 sets kettlebell pushups with single-arm row, aim for 8-12 repetitions so that the last one or two reps are almost too hard to perform
  • 10-15 minutes sprint intervals, 15 seconds at an all-out sprint followed by 45 seconds rest; repeat the series until you’ve met your time allotment