A Mass General expert provides tips on how to shake your body out of a fitness rut and continue to improve your performance.

Strength training exercise is an integral part of a complete fitness program that preserves muscles and bones while improving your strength. It can include lifting weights or body-weight exercises like squats or push-ups.

Getting stuck on a plateau where strength increases seem to stop can be frustrating.

But performing strength training consistently occasionally leads to getting stuck on a plateau where strength increases seem to stop, which can be frustrating. If your progress has stalled, try these tactics to get back on track.

Make Time for Recovery

Although it is just as important as exercise, recovery tends to be vastly underrated. Exercise stimulates changes that improve your health and fitness, but recovery is when those changes happen. Getting the right amount of quality sleep, managing daily stress and keeping good nutritional habits are all big contributors to adequate recovery. It may take some effort to establish better habits, but it will pay off with better fitness results and better overall quality of life.

If you’ve engaged in strength training consistently and have sufficiently recovered from individual workouts but still feel like you’re in a rut, try taking a week off. A week of low-level activity away from structured exercise is a great way to give your body time to fully recharge. You will come back ready to start making progress again.

If you’ve been using the same weight for a number of workouts, try adding to each of your exercises. Around 5 percent is a good amount.

Add Weight

Sometimes simply challenging yourself by lifting more weight is all it takes to break through a plateau. If you’ve been using the same weight for a number of workouts, try adding to each of your exercises. Around 5 percent is a good amount. You may be able to do this on a weekly or biweekly basis until you’re ready for a rest week.

Work More Muscles

If you’re using strength training machines, convert to non-machine exercises. Most machines target single muscles from a seated position, which is less efficient and doesn’t challenge supporting muscle groups.

Non-machine exercises tend to be bigger movements that involve more muscles, burn more calories and are better for improving strength. Instead of a leg press machine, try a squat; instead of a chest press machine, try pushups.

Switch to More Challenging Exercises

Any exercise can get stale, and most movements have more challenging versions or ways to progress them besides adding more weight. You can try going from double-limb movements to single-limb (from a two-leg squat to a split squat) or move in a different direction (from a forward lunge to a lateral lunge). If you’re unsure of how to make an exercise more challenging, a good personal trainer can help.

Create Circuits of Exercises

Circuit training links individual exercises together in a series to increase intensity. Circuits are also time efficient. You get more work done in the same amount of time. Mix upper body, lower body and core exercises together, moving from one exercise to the next until you finish the circuit. Then rest and repeat. Try to organize exercises so you don’t target the same movement or muscles twice in a row.

Changing tempo makes the same exercise feel very different and can lift you out of a rut.

Apply the same guidelines for weight, reps and sets as you would for exercises performed in isolation. Use weights that allows for 6 to 12 repetitions maximum and do 1 to 3 sets depending on how much time you have.

Change Tempo

If you don’t want to change your exercises, try changing tempo. Tempo refers to the speed with which you lift and lower a weight. The most common tempo is about 2 seconds per repetition (1 second up and 1 second down).

Changing tempo makes the same exercise feel very different and can lift you out of a rut. Moving more slowly in the lowering (resisting) phase is particularly beneficial for increasing strength. For example, try a 2-second count for the lift and a 4-second resist on each repetition.

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Mike Bento is an advanced trainer at The Clubs at Charles River Park and Massachusetts General Hospital. He holds a master’s degree in human movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a corrective exercise specialist and performance enhancement specialist.