T Nation

CNS Plateaus: Real or Psychological?


Hi CT,
Firstly thanks for all your time you give to those who love to train. I rarely ever ask for help but I am really stuck. I am a chronic program hopper and I hate it. My brain just seems to crave variety too much.

I am 31 years old with the goal of increasing strength-skill and becoming more explosive. As I have good body comp and mobility at the moment and know I am too weak in big lifts and am a little bit too slow. I really don’t want to be an athletic looking man who is weaker then he looks. My long term aim is to be powerful in all circumstances maybe compete at wrestling.

So I went through my old training log and found that every single time I do a strength cycle I enjoy training to begin with increasing weights, then I “crash” after 4 sessions of the same exercise about two weeks. I feel I plateau and weights stay stagnant but more importantly I lose motivation to train. It feels like my brain becomes desensitised to the stimulus and I long for something new. Many times I push through this feeling and find I have to add bodybuilding or activation work in to ensure I turn up at the gym.

What generally happens then is the brick wall feeling after third week sometimes forth (both with no strength increase). So I do a new strength cycle and test my 3RM on other new exercises. Then try to do another 6 week strength cycle based on accessory lifts which I fail to adhere to. I am writing this being in my third week of DUP, hating the strength days and looking forward to bodybuilding day (which is not my goal).

My current pattern is not optimal as I end up stopping and starting all the time and test maxes too frequently. I feel I also miss out on frequent exposure to the main lifts. But most importantly this way has not given me much progress in strength over the last couple of years. As I only really progress 50% of the time.

The programs I have found this pattern for are: 5x5, your old layers, your RSS, and currently DUP, many only lifting ramps, 7x3.

The four exceptions to the rule I have found are:
-On your 915 program the main lifts felt the same but I progressed. I am not sure if that is because I increased size on the program and got on very well with the cycling of the accessory lifts.

  • On built for bad I have found that allowing for variation in the rep range wave loading extends progress and enjoyment to a massive 10-12 sessions (2 weeks). But I am sure my form was lax towards the end which is in itself a variation and the increased density is another variable which changes. After two weeks of built for bad, I did suffer from overtraining.
  • Doing a strength lift once a week extends my progress to 5-6 weeks. Which goes against the rule of frequency for strength development.
  • Weirdly this pattern only applies to strength cycles, “pump” sessions I can keep doing the same thing for a long time.

To summarise my findings of what seems to work from my 3 year training log:

  • variation of exercise every 5th/6th session
  • variation of reps every 3rdish session
  • potentially changing strength density

My questions:

  1. Is this just a psychological preference of mine that I have to ignore?

  2. Do you know of any programs that you can recommend to increase my strength-skill in a variety of lifts that enables me to keep my sanity?

Many thanks