Every natural bodybuilder has reached a sticking point at one time or another. You know the feeling. You push hard with all your might, yet the gains are nonexistent. Despite your best efforts you seem to hit the wall in your training progress. Don't give up! You haven't reached your genetic limit. To start making gains again, you must develop and implement a strategy for getting past your sticking point.
Analyze Your Exercise Technique
An excellent place to begin is by analyzing your technique. Exercise form is extremely important. Poor technique will result in less than optimal recruitment of the muscle fibers in each bodypart. That will reduce the benefit of the exercise and keep you from growing as much and as quickly as you could. You need to train the muscle through its full range of motion using relatively heavy weight. Direct your effort to the muscle(s) you're trying to isolate. For example, when you do a single-joint movement, such as a concentration curl, make sure you don't cheat by pushing the dumbbell up with your leg. That will make the exercise easier, but it won't be as effective for stimulating biceps development.
The order in which you do your exercises is also important. Focus on the interactions between them. The number of curls you do can hamper your bench press. That means completing your compound movements before you begin the isolation movements for the same burly-part.
You must compel your muscles to break past the sticking point. If they're not getting full-intensity training, the fibers have no reason to grow. Use as much weight as you can lift with good form, focus on the feel of the muscle as you work it and take each set to failure.
Increasing the number of sets is not always the answer, because that can result in overtraining. Try cycling your intensity level to ensure that you don't overtrain. Training too frequently can prevent full recuperation as well, so rest at least two days before training a body-part again. A forced layoff every six to eight weeks may also prove beneficial in overcoming a sticking point. You need to hit the muscles hard, then let them rest.
Another tactic when your progress stops is to change your training approach. Try experimenting with high/low training, in which you combine high-repetition sets with low-rep, high-weight sets. High/low training can give you an incredible pump. It also releases lots of endorphins and can really get you motivated. Then you can throw in some supersets to engorge the muscles with blood. For example, try blasting your arms by supersetting biceps curls with triceps extensions. You can also experiment with declining sets, in which you do three sets of an exercise without a rest rising 100 percent, 70 percent and 40 percent of your usual lifting weight.
Enjoy Nutritious Foods
Nutritional deficiencies can stop your muscle growth cold. You need protein to produce the more than 1,000 enzymes that are essential to good health. Without adequate protein your body won't have amino acids left over to devote to muscular development. Make sure you have sufficient raw material for anabolic adaptations by consuming up to one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which is your total bodyweight less fat stores.
Don't forget that you need carbohydrates. Since muscle growth is low on the body's list of priorities, size increases occur only if there are still carbohydrates available after your other needs for glucose have been satisfied. The amount required, however, depends on your metabolic rate. If your bodyweight seems to be stuck in neutral, try moderately increasing your carb consumption. If that was the problem, you'll gain muscle mass. If you weren't deficient in carbs to start with, though, the result will be bodyfat. So experiment very carefully. Bodyfat is something that hardly anyone is deficient in.
As for dietary fats, you only need 20 grains a day to get enough of the essential linoleic and linolenic acids. Virtually everyone takes in much more than that. And forget about upping your fat consumption to gain muscle. Muscle fibers contain protein, carbohydrate, creatine and water, not fat. Give your muscles what they're made of.
Master Your Mind and Body
Psychological and motivational factors can play a major role in putting sticking points behind you. If you think you can't grow any more, you won't, not because you're at your genetic limit but because you've restricted yourself mentally. With proper focus and visualization you can release the fire within and maximize your mental intensity.
Learn how to go into a training trance, which lets you block all outside interference and focus entirely on the training task at hand. Visualize your future body, then make it happen. Set realistic short-term and intermediate goals so you can savor victory frequently as you progress. And keep the faith. You'll overcome this sticking point and achieve your long-term goal in time.
The mind is a powerful tool. Many natural bodybuilders aren't in touch with their bodies. Their sticking points are a lot deeper than they realize. Without a sound emotional foundation you cant push yourself to the max. A positive self-image does wonders for motivation. When you reach a sticking point, convert it to a challenge. Don't take no for an answer. If people say you can't do it, show them otherwise. Believe in your destiny as a bodybuilder and be willing to work hard. If one street is blocked, find another way to reach your destination.
Once you develop a multifaceted strategy for getting past your sticking point, what now appears to be a mountain will soon be a molehill. So put your sticking point behind you and move on to new challenges and successes in your drug-free bodybuilding program.