How Much Weight Should I Lift? (Pick Your Starting Weight)

How Much Weight Should I Lift? (Pick Your Starting Weight)

Do you think he supplements with creatine?

“Do you even lift?”

After today’s guide, not only will you be able to say “YUP,” but you’ll also know exactly how MUCH you should be lifting!

We’ll help you get big and strong so you can fight back against your older brother when he tackles you in the hallway.

Get strong so you don't end up a victim.

As part of our Strength 101 series, we’re going to tell you exactly what you need to know about lifting weights and strength training:

If you find yourself with a billion other strength training questions as you build your own workout, or you’re overwhelmed at all of this and not sure how to get stronger…you’re in good company!

It can be scary enough to keep MOST people from starting, which is actually why we created our Coaching Program.

Your NF Coach will do an initial assessment to calculate exactly how much weight you should start lifting. They’ll then design a program that they’ll adjust regularly based on your progress and schedule.

Plus, with our app, your coach can do regular video form checks to make sure you safely make consistent progress. 

With that out of the way, let’s jump into the nitty-gritty of “How much weight should I lift?

Step #1: Why You Should Lift Your Own Bodyweight First

This LEGO lifts his own bodyweight no problem.

Stop! (Wait a minute…)

Before trying to figure out how much weight you can lift, let’s make sure you know how to do the movement, as flawlessly as possible, without any weight at all.


Because if you can’t do a movement correctly without weight, how can you expect to do it right WITH weight?

Think about it – if you can’t walk up a flight of stairs normally, would you expect to be able to walk up the flight of stairs carrying a sack of hammers?

No – you would only hurt yourself.[1]

Also, what are you even doing with a sack of hammers?

STEP ONE: learn each movement without any bars, dumbbells, or added weight.

Which might make you say:

Staci, how on earth do I do a deadlift or an overhead press without any weight? And I know I can do a bodyweight squat, but isn’t it completely different doing a barbell back squat?”

Easy – grab either a broomstick (be careful for splinters!), mop handle, or PVC pipe (I use a 1.25” PVC cut in half) and pretend it’s a barbell.

If you’re trying to mimic a dumbbell movement, either grab a short dowel, PVC, or just hold your hands in a fist as if you were holding on to something.

While it’s not the exact same as holding actual weight, it will allow you to practice getting into the correct positions.

Practice the movements in your own home without other people around you (so you’ll be less nervous).

Also, you can videotape yourself pretty easily. I’ve use my computer’s webcam, or my phone camera and a little tripod, then completed the movement with a broomstick.

Now, I can deadlift 455 pounds and I’m a Senior Coach for our Online Coaching Program:

Staci showing you how to deadlift 455 pouds.

If you want a beginner strength training workout to follow:

If you are interested in nerding out about proper form for each barbell movement, start here:

We also HIGHLY recommend you pick up Starting Strength, widely considered to be the Bible of barbell training.

Once you feel good about your form, you can see if you can “pass the bar.”

(Guaranteed to be the nicest lawyer joke you’ll ever read on Nerd Fitness, by the way).

Now, if want a full Bodyweight Workout Program that you can follow along with at home that will help get you prepped to start strength training?

You can download the worksheet to follow along here when you sign up in the box below:

Step #2: How to Start Barbell Training with Lifting the Bar

Coach Staci doing a barbell lunge, an advanced lunge variation.

Once you’re comfortable with each movement with a broomstick or PVC, then you can move to the bar.

Your first gym workout shouldn’t go any heavier than “just” the bar, which means the bar without any added weight.

How much does a barbell weigh?

  • A standard barbell weighs 45 lbs (20.4 kg).
  • A “women’s barbell” weighs 35 lbs (15.8 kg).

Now, don’t be discouraged if this seems really heavy – especially on upper body movements.

When I started out, I could not bench press or overhead press an empty barbell.

Here Staci is pressing just the bar, a could practice for warming up.

If the bar seems too heavy to start:

  1. See if the gym has a lighter barbell – some have a “women’s bar” or a “training bar” that usually weighs 30-35 lbs and 15 lbs, respectively. These are usually shorter, but that’s okay!
  2. Start out with dumbbells – while the movement is not the exact same, it allows you to build up the strength:In the neutral grip press, shown here, you have your hands together during the movement.
    This will help you handle a barbell down the road.
  3. Focus on bodyweight training (push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, squats) until you build the strength to handle the bar.

Now, on opposite ends of the spectrum, if the bar seems really light, I would STILL encourage you to complete your first workout with just the bar.


According to Mike Rebold from Hiram College, when you start lifting the barbell or dumbbells for the first time you will notice muscle deficiencies (i.e., one side that is weaker than the other). It can often come down to motor units, or the nuerons that help muscle fibers.[2]

Rebold explains:

When you first start strength training and lifting the barbell or dumbbells, your motor units don’t fire as quickly and smaller motor units that don’t generate a lot of force are recruited. As you continue working out and become more trained, your motor units fire more rapidly and your brain recruits larger motor units that can generate more force allowing you to lift heavier weights. This is why the progressive overload principle is important.

That means focus on getting each rep correct, and worry about adding weight next time.

Check your ego at the door!

I would rather see somebody in the gym lifting the bar with proper form than watch somebody with awful form lift 400 lbs.

That makes me…

Nick Offerman Cringes when people try to lift too much weight with bad form

Note: If you finish your first workout with the bar and still aren’t comfortable with the movements, it’s never a bad thing to do your next workout with just the bar again.

If you’re not comfortable with the movement and you start adding weight, not only will you be more likely to injure yourself because your body isn’t ready, but you’ll be more likely to hurt yourself because you won’t be confident under the bar.

Confidence is something that is very important as you start lifting heavier and heavier.

Mike Rebold supports this idea:

Self-esteem is confidence in one’s own abilities. Research has shown that in order to improve one’s self-esteem, or one’s confidence to exercise and lift heavier weights, you must first incorporate and master simple exercises.[3]

This is why we also recommend starting with the barbell or light dumbbells. Because as you master these simple exercises, that will result in your self-esteem being improved and then you will have more confidence to try new exercises and to lift heavier weights. 

Speaking of, if you’re planning on using dumbbells as your main lift (and not a barbell):

Start with 5-10 lb dumbbells to get a feel for things.

If you don't have a spotter, the dumbbell press can be a great chest alternative.

Whether you’re starting with dumbbells or ready to move onto a barbell, it’s important to do it properly!

We check the form of EVERY online coaching client on their workouts so they have the confidence that they’re doing these moves correctly!

We’ve also created a specific sequence of workout routines you can follow along with for free in our guide Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know.

Grab yours free when you sign up in the box below:

Step #3: How To Start Adding Weight to the Barbell

Man with weighted barbell at gym

If you’re looking to start on a beginner program, such as the workouts in our Beginner Strength Training Workouts or our 6 Beginner Gym Workouts, you need to start light!

A few common rep ranges for beginner programs are:[4]

  • 5 sets of 5 reps
  • 3 sets of 8 reps
  • 3 sets of 10 reps

Let’s do an example: your program has you doing 3 sets of 8 on a particular lift.

1) After a proper warm-up routine, start with the empty bar again, and complete the prescribed number of reps (for this, it would be 8).

“But I thought you said we could add weight this time?” you might be thinking.

You can – but no matter how heavy you are going, always start with just the bar to warm up for EACH exercise.

As Staci shows here, keep your arms vertical (as much as you can).

If you watch the best lifters in your gym, you will notice they all warm up with “just the bar” to start, often for multiple sets!

This helps get your body warm, primes your nervous systems and all of your muscles for that movement, and gets you ready to lift heavier weight.[5]

As a beginner to strength training, this is especially important to ingrain proper technique.

2) Add a small amount of weight to the bar. Depending on how heavy the bar felt, start by adding:

  • 2 – 5 pounds for upper body exercises.
  • 5 – 10 pounds for lower body exercises.

When in doubt, add the lower amount.[6] You can always add more! Do another set of 8-12 reps at this weight.

(Note: If you’re doing dumbbell training, instead of adding weight to the bar, increase the weight of the dumbbell. Start with 5 lb. dumbbells, then 10 lb. dumbbells, for example)

3) If you were able to complete those reps both without losing form and without the speed of the bar slowing, add more weight to the bar.

Base the amount of new weight off how it felt – if the last set felt really light, add 5’s, if it felt heavy, add 2.5’s’s.

Here’s a good guideline from NSCA :[7]

If a person can do two or more reps than the goal in an exercise on two consecutive training sessions, then they should increase the load.

4) Continue to do this until your form starts to break down or the speed of the lift gets slower on any of your reps.[8]

The weight you used right before your form started to break down is your starting weight on which you will base all future workouts!

5) If it is a lower number than you expect, that’s great actually!

Don’t try to be a hero your first workout, it is better to start out too light than too heavy.[9]

Remember – we’re trying to get solid, productive sets in, not find our max, so we want all of the reps to be fast and with as perfect form as our body allows.

Since you’re testing out heavier weights for the first time, never be afraid to have a spotter, or to use pins to ensure your safety!

If you don’t want to figure ANY of this out on your own, and you just want somebody to tell you exactly how much to lift, how many sets, reps, etc., I hear you.

I’ve had a lifting coach for years and it’s the best investment I make each month!

Step #4: How Do I Know When to Add More Weight?

Joni doing squats at Camp Nerd Fitness, a great time for all involved.

Once you’ve found your starting weight, you’ll want to start using something called “progressive overload.”

This sounds a lot fancier than it really is.

As Coach Jim explains above, progressive overload means gradually increasing the stress put on your body during training.[10]

In other words, we need to increase something, regularly. Usually, this means the amount of weight we lift.

And for beginners, that can often happen after every workout.

During every workout, our muscles are torn and broken down. Then after every workout – for the next 24-48+ hours, our body repairs itself. If you’re getting proper sleep[11]  and nutrition,[12] it heals back stronger than it was before.

the "crushed it" gif from Pitch Perfect

Conversely, if you do 5 sets of 5 squats at 100 lbs every single workout for months, are you getting stronger?

Most likely not.

Your body is actually just getting more efficient at lifting 5×5 at 100 lbs, burning fewer calories, and using less energy to make that movement happen.

So, how much weight do you add when you’re ready to increase your workouts?

That depends on how difficult the set was last time.

This is where great note-taking comes in (I’m a huge fan of a simple notebook, or Evernote docs on my phone).

Be sure to document each workout with:

Did you go to failure on your last set?

Did your form break down on any of the reps?

You’ll end up in one of two positions:

PATH A: You failed to complete any of your reps or your form started to break down. Do the same weight again next workout, and focus on boosting your form and technique of each rep.

Remember, if you are doing the same workout as last time, but each rep is more solid and with better form than before, you’re still doing better than you were the last workout.

In other words, you’re still leveling up.

These characters know how much to lift, so they can get strong and defeat their enermies.

You don’t necessarily have to go up in weight every workout to see gains.

You could also focus on:

  • Less rest between sets.
  • More control and better form.
  • More repetitions.

All of which means you are getting stronger.

PATH B: You were able to get through all of your sets with great form, and without the bar slowing down. Congrats! Consider adding more next week. It’s not unheard of for beginners to add 10-20lbs a week to some lifts (especially squats and deadlifts), though don’t get discouraged if you’re only adding 2.5 or 5![13]

The BEST THING YOU CAN DO: slowly add the smallest amount of weight possible, and progress consistently. This is much preferred to progressing quickly and then hitting a plateau.

Each week, as you add a little bit of weight, you are building strength, confidence, and momentum.

Note: For some lifts, especially the overhead press or bench press, adding just 5 lbs may be too much to go up per workout.

I personally have a set of 1.25lb plates that I bring with me to the gym so that I can still progress regularly.

Remember: You’re going to have shitty days at the gym. There will be days when you can’t add any weight, or you feel like you have to take a step backward.

So many things affect how your lifts are going to feel:

  • A baby crying all night – causing sleep deprivation and resulting in systemic inflammation and decreased GH release = poor recovery
  • Lots of stress at the office.
  • To drinking too much at the big game – causing stomach discomfort and bloating.
  • Just not eating enough for your goalsnot consuming enough carbohydrates and fats to support energy demands or not consuming enough protein to facilitate muscle protein synthesis and recovery.[14]

It’s important to listen to your body over listening to some number telling you what you should be lifting.

You want to make progress every time you walk into the gym, and that means having a specific plan to follow.

Don’t have a workout to follow? Tired of not getting results despite all the effort?

This is what we do for a living! Help people like you get out of ruts and finally get them the results they want.

After doing my own workout programming for 5 years, I hired a coach and it changed my life. Let us help you hit your goals too.

Step #5: How Do I Calculate My 1 Rep MAx?

Deadlifts make a great addition when you build your own workout.

It’s really fun to find the maximum amount of weight you can do for one repetition (one rep max) every once in a while.

However, as a beginner who is just starting strength training, it’s better that you start with getting the movement right and adding weight slowly before trying to find a one-rep max.

I would suggest you follow a program for at least six weeks before even attempting “a heavy single”.


Even if your form is as good as you can get it now, you will get far better, learning how to make tweaks and corrections as you go.

When you first start out, you’re still getting everything down, so your one-rep max won’t be a “true” one-rep max.

Plus, when you train, you’re training everything in your body.

Some things, like muscles and bones, get stronger, while others, like your nervous system, get more efficient.

The more you do something, the better you get at it. And in the beginning you’ll get better very quickly.

It’s unwise to attempt a 1 repetition maximum when you’re learning the movement.

This is one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia.”

Vizzini from Princess Bride knows you shouldn't do 1 rep maxes as a beginner

But only slightly less well-known is this: “Never attempt a 1-rep max as a beginner.”

Even if you can do it with proper form with lighter weights, as soon as the weight gets close to your 1 rep max your form will start to break down, and you are more likely to hurt yourself.

Some words of caution here from Mike Rebold, an expert in exercise physiology:

During 1RM testing, fatigue will happen! One-repetition maximum testing has been found to overload the neuromuscular system resulting in lower motor unit activation, less force production, and ultimately more fatigue. This level of fatigue experienced by the lifter can be enough to result in injury, especially if the lifter is a novice (i.e., beginner).

When your form starts to break down, you need to have the experience behind you to finish (or bail out of) the lift safely.

If you watch any weightlifting or powerlifting competition, sometimes the lifts are not the prettiest lifts you’ve ever seen.

However, the lifters are experienced enough to handle this, and know how to bail if something goes wrong.

As a beginner, you are not.

Team NF’s Steve worked with a coach for 4+ years to finally get his 420 lb. deadlift:

Rebel Leader Steve showing how to do a 420 lb deadlift at the gym.

If you want to work with a coach that can help you perfect your form and train to hit 1-rep maxes too, we’re here for ya! We’re slightly biased, but having a coach in your corner is an absolute game-changer.

Step #6: what is a respectable amount to be lifting?

Camp was great, for lots of reasons, but mainly because we benched.

The simple answer? The weight that’s right for you.

You are not competing against the guy next to you; you’re competing against the YOU from last week (like racing your ghost in Mario Kart).

Lifting at the gym can be like racing against yourself in Mario Kart.

As far as what you can strive for, there’s no easy calculation or formula.

While some people have put out strength standards, it’s truly up to your body, your body type, your background as an athlete, your genetics, and many other factors.[15]

You should be lifting the amount that’s right for you today. In your next workout, you should be trying to lift more (even if you can’t do more weight, try doing one more rep, or with less rest between sets) than you did last time.

That’s it.

As a part of this journey, I want you to completely forget about strength standards and forget about everyone around you.

I don’t care if the guy (or girl) next to you is squatting 500 lbs for sets of 10.

If you’re squatting 50 lbs, and that’s the weight that is challenging for you, then that’s the weight you should be lifting.

These are the BIG mistakes you need to avoid:

Never EVER try to outlift the person next to you.

Never EVER adjust the weight to impress someone.

No one’s judging you based on the weight on the bar, and if they are, they aren’t worth your time or energy.

To recap “How much should I lift?”:

  1. The strongest lifters do a dynamic warm-up first.
  2. The strongest lifters warm up with “just” the bar.
  3. The strongest lifters focus on getting their reps in, and aren’t ashamed that they’re lifting less than the guy next to them.
  4. The strongest lifters take time to get things right, even if that means lifting less weight than they know they “can” do.
  5. The strongest lifters started off doing a beginners program just like you.

So remember – start slow, add weight slowly, and stay conservative.

It’s amazing how much even adding just 5 lbs (2kg) a week adds up to! It’s far better to play it safe in the beginning than to find yourself injured and frustrated before you have a chance to progress.

Do You Even Lift?

Hopefully, this article EXCITED you about strength training, and you now know exactly how much to lift. 

For people looking for the next step, we’ve got 3 options you want to check out:

1) If you want to follow a strength training program that’s specific to your goals, check out our popular Online Coaching Program.

You’ll work with a certified NF instructor who will get to know you better than you know yourself, check your form, and create a workout strategy that will evolve alongside you.

2) If you want a daily prompt for doing workouts at the gym (or at home), check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

3) Join the Rebellion! Join hundreds of thousands of people like you. It’s free to join, and we have a dozen free guides for you when you sign up in the yellow box below.

Let’s get these questions answered so you can get back to getting stronger!

What are your other big questions about lifting weight and how much you should be lifting?


PS: Be sure to check out the rest of Strength Training 101 series:


photo source: Strongman, Four Bricks Tall: Scenes from an empty lot in Brooklyn, vol 1., hxdbzxy ©, Lego Lifting.

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Stay in Shape While Traveling (5 Workouts)

Stay in Shape While Traveling (5 Workouts)

This LEGO knows all about staying in shape while he travels.

Ever said, “I’d love to get in shape, but I travel too much”?

If so, this guide is for you!

Today we’re gonna teach you exactly how to get fit no matter what type of business trip you’re on.

We’ll cover:

It’s time to get you a specific action plan that you can take with you on your next trip.

This is the philosophy we teach to all of our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Clients. Many travel quite a bit, so having “worldwide accountability” and a specific plan for travel has been a game-changer for these Rebels.

Are you trying to learn a new exercise, lose weight, or build muscle, but find doing it on the road a challenge? Let us help you – click below to learn more.

5 Travel Workouts You Can Do Anywhere

Where's this LEGO going? Will he workout once he gets there?

Without access to your favorite gym, it can seem like you are doomed to remain sedentary until you get back home.

Have no fear! These 5 workouts you can do anywhere and at anytime!


Set the alarm clock to 15 minutes from now and see how many circuits you can do!

  1. Bodyweight squats: 20 repsDo a proper bodyweight squat to work out your legs
  2. Incline push-ups: 15 reps (feet on floor, hands on edge of bed or desk)Staci doing an elevated push-up
  3. One-arm luggage rows: 10 reps (each arm, use your suitcase as your weight)
    Jim doing a luggage row
  4. Reverse crunches: 10 reps

The reverse crunch is a great way to engage your core during your bodyweight workout.

Click right here for more advanced hotel workouts you can try.


No gym required for this workout!

If you have a body, you can do this circuit! If you’re a brain floating in a jar, email me. I’ll think of a workaround for you.

  1. Bodyweight squats: 20 reps.
  2. Push-ups: 10 reps.
  3. Walking lunges: 10 reps each leg.
  4. Dumbbell rows (using your luggage/laptop bag as a weight): 10 reps each arm.
  5. Plank: 15 seconds.
  6. Jumping jacks: 30 reps

Run through this circuit three times. If you don’t have milk in the hotel room for the rows, find something of roughly the same weight with a good handle. Your luggage might work perfectly.


Throughout the world, you’re often never that far away from a playground or a park.

Get a workout in there!

  1. Alternating step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg).
  2. Elevated push-ups: 10 reps.
  3. Swing rows: 10 reps.
  4. Assisted lunges: 8 reps each leg.
  5. Bent leg reverse crunches: 10 reps.


Was that Beginner Bodyweight Workout too easy for you?

Then try out this more advanced circuit!

  1. One-legged squats: 10 each side [warning super-difficult, only attempt if you’re in good enough shape].
  2. Bodyweight Squats: 20 reps.
  3. Walking Lunges: 20 reps (10 each leg).
  4. Jump step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg).
  5. Pull-Ups: 10 reps [or inverted bodyweight rows].
  6. Dips (between two chairs): 10 reps.
  7. Chin-ups: 10 reps [this might be tough in a hotel room, so try an inverted bodyweight rows with underhand grip].
  8. Push-Ups: 10 reps.
  9. Plank: 30 seconds.


This is Nerd Fitness. There’s no way I’m going to miss including a nerdy-themed workout.

  1. Bodyweight Squats: 30 reps.
  2. Push-Ups20 reps (or 40 knee push-ups).
  3. One arm rows: 30 reps (each arm).
  4. Planks: – 60 seconds.


If you’re busy on the road, it might seem like you have no time to train.

Enter the Speedrun Workout.

In the video above, Coach Matt walks through exactly how to sneak in a workout, even with “no time.”

How to Eat Healthy While Traveling

What should you eat when you travel? How about fruit (the non-LEGO kind)

Here’s what I do specifically while traveling:

#1) Skip meals strategically. I know that if I skip breakfast, it means I can eat a slightly larger lunch and have an extra drink with dinner and STILL come in under my daily calorie expenditure.

#2) Prepare for bad meals. I love me a good steak dinner with a side of mac and cheese and sweet potato fries and dessert and a few beers. When I’m on vacation or celebrating, that sounds like heaven to me.

The "cheers" scene from Shaun of the Dead

However, I know if I always eat like that, I’m going to pack on lots of weight.

So I plan ahead for a big meal, that way I can enjoy it guilt-free and not see the scale budge. I eat protein and veggies for lunch, strategically undereating so that I can overeat for dinner – and not gain weight in the long run.

#3) Never eat 2 bad meals in a row. We have a big “never two in a row” rule at Nerd Fitness, as I explain here:

Believe it or not, even sticking with your goals 50% of the time carries with it the tremendous potential for improvement. So, if you eat a so-so lunch, follow it up with a nutritious dinner. Eat too much pizza for dinner? Cool! Make your breakfast part of your plan.

This is NOT “100% or nothing.” Every decision counts, every meal counts, so any decision where you are SLIIIIIGHTLY better than you would have been otherwise is a win in my book.

If you’re interested in the Nerd Fitness philosophy on proper diet, make sure you read our article “How to Start Eating Healthy,” which will teach you how to build a plate like this:

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing great!

Curious about my default diet these days? You can read all about it right here. And here is the specific diet I followed – while traveling frequently – to lose 22 pounds sustainably.

Here are some other strategies for healthy eating on the road:

#1) Ask your hotel for a mini-fridge

Fill the fridge with your own nutritious snacks – just make sure they don’t charge you for taking out the other foods! Fruit, sliced veggies, and some deli meat will provide you with some sustenance until you can order a proper meal.

Here is a post with some ideas for healthy snacks you can buy and store in your room.

#2) Travel with a cooler

If you know the hotel can’t accommodate a mini-fridge, or you’re on a road trip, no problem!

Bring a mini-cooler or cooler bag. If you use a bag, it’ll fold up for easy packing.

Is it weird to travel with a cooler? Sure. But we embrace weird around these parts.

We like the weird at Nerd Fitness if it makes you stay in shape. Skating dog optional.

#3) Bring non-perishable snacks with you

I’ve eaten almonds forgotten in a backpack, months later, and lived to tell the tale.

Lots of dry food like nuts and jerky won’t spoil anytime soon, so store some in your travel bag. Munching some beef jerky is a much better idea than the pizza in the airport terminal. Here are some good almonds to purchase, and here’s some recommended beef jerky for you to try out.

#4) Focus on protein and fiber

When choosing meals or snacks, make sure the foods you pick are full of protein and fiber.[1] This will help keep you full, so you’re not tempted to eat the donuts waiting for you at your work conference.

What are protein and fiber-rich foods? Hard-boiled eggs will store well, and can be bought at many convenience stores. That’s a good protein source. Deli meat, jerky, and nuts will also do the trick for your protein requirements.

Fiber-rich foods? Fruits and vegetables for the win. Always bring an apple with you.

#5) All is not lost if you order fast food

There’s a common belief amongst our coaching clients, that the moment you step foot in a fast food store, you lost. You made a terrible decision by even walking in. Might as well order whatever, because you already failed.

This is 100% NOT true. What you order while out will make all the difference. For example, I eat a chicken bowl from Chipotle almost every day. To the point that it’s weird.[2]

Why? Because it’s more nutritious than anything I’m going to make at lunchtime, given my schedule.

Remember, what you order is more important than where you order from.

Let’s dive into that last point a little more.

What Are Some Healthy Fast Food Options?

Can you eat healthy while traveling at fast food, like McDonald's?

Let’s outline an entire day’s worth of eating, provided by a drive-thru window (we cover this in our fast food article).

Most of these can also be found at your average airport terminal.


Location: Starbucks

  • Sous Vide Egg Bites, Bacon & Gruyere: A great protein source. Go ahead and order some black coffee with it too.
    • Calories: 310
    • Protein: 19g
    • Net Carbs: 9g
    • Fat: 22g

Location: Dunkin’ Donuts

  • Sausage Egg and Cheese Bagel (no bagel): Sausage and egg are a breakfast staple. Plus, cheese!
    • Calories: 370
    • Protein: 16g
    • Net Carbs: 3g
    • Fat: 33g

#2) LUNCH:

Location: McDonald’s

  • Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad (Use the Balsamic Vinaigrette): It’s mostly greens, grilled chicken and a little bacon. No customization required. Your salad comes in under 400 calories.
    • Calories: 320
    • Protein: 42g
    • Net Carbs: 6g
    • Fat: 14g

Location: Subway

  • Oven Roasted Chicken: Grab it with lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onion, green peppers, cucumbers, and olives, with oil and vinegar as dressing. Also, feel free to add bacon and guacamole to increase your calories. Your nutrition info will look like this if ordered as above:
    • Calories: 490
    • Protein: 24g
    • Net Carbs: 11g
    • Fat: 35.5g


Location: Boston Market

  • Three-Piece Dark: Lot’s of protein, decent fat, and no carbs.
    • Calories: 300
    • Protein: 37g
    • Net Carbs: 1g
    • Fat: 16g
  •  Green Beans: Keep it simple.
    • Calories: 90cals
    • Protein: 1g
    • Net Carbs: 4g
    • Fat: 5g
  • Fresh Steamed Vegetables: Following our “simple” strategy.
    • Calories: 60
    • Protein: 2g
    • Net Carbs: 4g
    • Fat: 3.5g

Location: Chipotle

  • Salad Bowl (with Carnitas): order it with Fajita Vegetables, Fresh Tomato Salsa, Sour Cream, Cheese, and YES for Guacamole.
    • Calories: 710
    • Protein: 34g
    • Net Carbs: 12
    • Fat: 51g

The above should help give you some ideas on what to order when you’re depending on fast food.

Want some more ideas? Check out our guide on healthy fast food.

How Do I Eat a Healthy Continental Breakfast?

What's a healthy breakfast for you to eat while you travel?

So your room comes with a free complimentary breakfast.

Might as well take advantage of it!

Pooh never passes up breakfast, especially when he travels.

Go ahead and load up on these:

  1. Eggs. We mentioned earlier to prioritize protein with your meals. Just about every hotel continental breakfast will have some eggs. The quality might be so-so, however. If they have some hot sauce around, this can make just about any scramble tolerable.
  2. Sausage. Continuing with our protein theme, if there is sausage at the buffet, grab some. Granted, it’ll often have some sugar in the form of maple syrup included. But we’re going with the best we can here.
  3. Bacon. We love bacon around these parts so much, we wrote an entire post on it. The fat in bacon will help keep you full until you’re next meal. Plus, if the eggs are crappy (the eggs will probably be crappy), you can mix in some bacon to bring up the tasty factor.
  4. Fruit. It can’t all be about meat. Go ahead and grab some fruit for your plate. Apples are relatively high in fiber, which is why they’re my go-to. Bananas also have decent fiber, as well as vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. Are there berries available? Grab some for their antioxidant potential (we talk all about berries and antioxidants in this article).
  5. Toast. I know, I know, we might be attracting the Carb Police on us for this one. But you can do a lot worse at a breakfast buffet than a little whole-wheat toast. If you put some eggs and bacon on it, you have yourself a pretty decent breakfast sandwich with some fiber to help keep you full.

Alright, prioritize the above on your plate. Plus, minimize:

  1. Juice. If I could give you one single piece of diet advice, it would be this: try not to drink your calories. There’s a lot of arguments on diets, but this advice is widely accepted. An orange has plenty of vitamins in it, plus a lot of fiber to help balance out the sugar. OJ? Zero fiber, and it’s mostly just high-calorie sugar water at this point! Skip the juice and eat the whole fruit.
  2. Pancakes/Waffles. Don’t eat these, unless you are good at portion control! The high-calorie batter itself will have sugar in it, plus it’s designed to have more sugar (maple syrup) poured on top. Stick to toast.
  3. Cereal. This breakfast food is often packed full of carbs, calories, and sugar. For example, the third ingredient for Cheerios is “sugar.” And that’s Cheerios. Don’t even get me started on Fruit Loops or Frosted Flakes. Again, stick to toast.

The above advice should get you started on loading up properly at a breakfast buffet.

How To Make Staying Fit A Priority on the Road

This LEGO is ready exercise, no matter where he travels to.

If you are trying to get healthy but need to travel frequently, I want you to make exercise your constant.

I don’t know if you were a Lost fan, but my favorite episode, “The Constant,” involved a character named Desmond who had to find the one “constant” in his life in order to stay sane.

Something Desmond could focus on as his mind traveled through time.

Desmond should have made exercise his "constant" when he traveled (through time).

You had to be there.

I’ve traveled quite a bit over the years: sightseeing countries, sleeping on buses, exploring temples, and visiting a new town seemingly every other day.

During all this chaos: exercise became my constant.

Steve always travels with rings, so he can do his training from any part of the world.

I knew that without a doubt, no matter where I was or what I was doing, every other day I would find a way to work out – no excuses. I might have had to add in an extra day between workouts maybe a handful of times.

What I’m trying to say is this: if you are serious about prioritizing your health, even while traveling, then start treating exercise like YOUR constant.

Make it a reliable, consistent thing in your schedule, no matter where you are in the world.

No matter what.

Sound difficult? Start by asking yourself the following:

“If I HAD to still get my workouts in, even if I am traveling or on vacation, how would I do it?”

Most answers will be something like this:

  1. “If I had to work out, it would mean that I need to wake up SUPER early tomorrow morning to hit the gym before the conference starts.”
  2. “If I had to get my run in, it would mean I could only go for a 20 minute run instead of my normal 60-minute run.”
  3. “If I had to get my workout in, that would mean I need to actually PAY for a day pass at a real gym, because I know hotel gyms are crappy.”

This is the most important question you can ask yourself before your trip: “How do I make this work for me?” 

Then, structure your environment and schedule to make it happen:

  1. Add it to your calendar.
  2. Set up a text reminder.
  3. Plan your schedule around it.
  4. Have your coach or friend remind you.
  5. Research the nearest gym or park.

Again, ask yourself – what if you HAD to work out, no matter what. How would you get it done? What would you need to change?

And then do whatever you can to make it your constant.

How to Overcome Jet Lag (and other tips)

This Merman wants to help you avoid jetlag.

We need to address a few final points: sleep, jet lag, and hydration.

All of these are going to impact your ability to follow the advice above. 


When I’m sleep-deprived, I often don’t have the energy to exercise…when the reality is that exercise is often the thing that will give me energy (foreshadowing).

Also, if you’re lacking shuteye, you’ll get hungrier.[3] When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain sends signals for more energy, which means more calories. This is troublesome if you’re trying to hold out until you can order a nutritious chicken salad.

Prioritize sleep.

Two good tools to help with this are earplugs and an eye mask. Some hotels have a way of being bright and noisy.

Is Cinderella suffering from jetlag?


Sleeping might be tough if you’re dealing with “jet lag.”

Jet lag is the phenomenon of traveling from one time zone to another, but still being stuck in the former time.

For example, you fly from New York to London.

It was night when you left New York. It is now morning in London. You may or may not have slept on the plane.

What time is it?

Your body can have some serious trouble getting back on track, because our circadian rhythms (our biological clock) are thrown off by the geographic change.

My solution: work out (click here for that section).

Studies have shown that a good sweat can help change your circadian rhythm, which might help you adjust to the local time.[4]

If you’re able to, work out as soon as you get settled to help combat jet lag. I’ve personally found this to be super helpful in adjusting to the local time. 


Air travel dehydrates you.[5] The cabin’s air is environmentally controlled, with lower moisture than you find here on the ground.

  • Humidity on the good old fashioned Earth: 30-60%
  • Moisture in an average airplane: 10-20%

Yeah…that 10-20% is less than the Sahara desert.

That’s pretty dry…

On top of that, the pressurization of the cabin itself causes you to expel H2O.

Something something, physics. Something something, less water.

The low humidity and pressurized environment create a perfect scenario for you to lose lots of water. 

And if you’re dehydrated, it can make you tired, which can go back to that whole hunger and calories thing.

Drink water.

Above All Else, Preserve Momentum While Traveling!

No matter where you travel, keeping going like this man here.

Whatever you’re currently working on improving in your life, you can continue working on that while traveling.

You only fall off the wagon if you resign yourself to the fact that it’s impossible to stay fit while traveling!

Why not have the opposite mindset, and ask “How do I make this work for me?”

Batman is curious on how to stay in shape while traveling.

Millions of people manage to stay healthy despite a hectic travel schedule, and I want the same for you.

Here are some final tips to help you while traveling: 

  1. Travel day? Pack some healthy snacks with you in your bag – apples and almonds are my go-to.
  2. Going out to dinner with co-workers? Find the restaurant online, scour the menu, and “pre-order your dinner” in your mind so you know what to order when you get there. Order the “meat + veggie + potato” option on the menu, and ask for double veggies instead. Aim for something like steak tips, or grilled chicken, salmon, etc.
  3. Traveling with your family? Let them know that you’re making a concerted effort to eat better and that you’d like their support.
  4. Going out with friends? Let’s say you’re going out with buddies, and you have no choice but to eat fried food and drink tons of beer (I hate when that happens). Compensate by being extra diligent on the days before and after – no drive-thru meals, no late-night vending machine stops, no bad snacks while at the convention.

Pick your battles. Plan ahead. Make eating a priority.

If you want any help as you head out on the road, I got you boo.

Here’s how Nerd Fitness can help you get in shape while you travel:

#1) Our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

Lots of our clients travel full-time, and their coach is one of the few constants they have every day.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the image below for more details:

Your NF Coach can help you lose weight and get healthy!

#2) If you want a roadmap for getting in shape on the road, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app will help you exercise and eat better, all while you build your very own superhero…no matter where on Earth you are!


Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join The Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so. 

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Alright, that’s about it for this guide. Now, your turn:

Do you travel for work?

Do you upcoming vacation this summer?

What struggles do you have while on the road? What kind of questions do you have about staying in shape and traveling?

Leave a question in the comments and I’ll help in any way that I can.



All photo citations can be read right here: Backpacker, Decathlon, Good Party, Newtonmas, Apples, Model Train DisplayCalifonia Dreamin, Angry Hulk, Dirt Bike.

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7 Reasons For Workout or Weight Loss Plateau (& 5 Fixes)

7 Reasons For Workout or Weight Loss Plateau (& 5 Fixes)

orth Cape with a steep cliff and a large flat plateau is in the Barents Sea.

So you’ve hit a workout or weight loss plateau the size of a…well, an actual plateau, eh?

Have no fear, our step-by-step guide will get you back on track! (Plus, the most badass Bruce Lee quote you’ll ever read).

Whether you’ve stalled in your weight loss journey, strength training, or some other fitness benchmark, today we’ll tell you exactly how to keep progressing by sharing with you the exact tools we use with our coaching clients.

Don’t lose morale. Together we got this!

We’ll cover:

Alright, let’s do this thing.

What is a Plateau?

A picture of a LEGO Spider-man, who is interested in weight loss.

A plateau occurs when you stall out on progress despite continuing to do “all of the right things,” usually including:

And so on.

Our bodies go from losing weight consistently to getting stuck at a certain number.

Or we go from building muscle and getting stronger, to having a week or two where we can’t seem to lift anything heavier.

We call this point in our training “The Plateau,” and we don’t like being stuck on them.

A man hitting his head over and over.

As we learned in a previous article on happiness, humans (nerds especially) are happier when we make progress.

When we work hard for something and don’t see progress, we get unhappy.

How Do I Know If I’ve Hit a Plateau?

How do you bust through a plateau?

I get a lot of emails from people who tell me they’re stuck on a plateau.

They talk about how they’ve been eating right, exercising, and getting enough rest and they can’t seem to make progress!

They throw their hands in the air, freak out, get discouraged, and give up or quickly move on to the next plan that they hope will work.

When somebody comes to me saying they’ve plateaued, my first response is always:

Are you really on a plateau?

“Have you REALLLLLLLLY plateaued? REALLY?”

In a strong majority of the cases, plateaus are really just issues with concentration, tracking, and discipline in disguise. Before you think you have plateaued, consider the following:

1) HOW IS YOUR NUTRITION…REALLY? Oftentimes we think we are being diligent, until we realize that after a few weeks of eating great we’ve started slacking. “Oh I’ve been good, just this one time…” and “Hmmm, sure why not” become more commonplace as we start to fall back into old habits. Track your calories for the next week and check your numbers.

And even if you are eating the right amounts of food, there’s this: as you lose weight, your metabolism slows down. This isn’t sabotaging black magic, it’s science.

There’s simply LESS of you that your body needs to maintain.

A gif of Beaker shrinking, who will for sure need fewer calories now.

Here is the estimated daily resting calorie burn (“sit on your ass all day”) of a 35-year old male nerd at 3 very different weights:

  • 300 lbs: 2,600 calories.
  • 250 lbs: 2,300 calories.
  • 200 lbs: 2,000 calories.

You might have hit a plateau simply because you’ve reached an equilibrium of calories consumed to calories burned! This means you need to adjust your calorie intake to continue losing weight.

If you are trying to bulk up, are you eating ENOUGH calories to promote muscle growth? Rededicate yourself for two weeks, track your meals, and see if progress picks back up!

2) HOW ARE YOUR WORKOUTS…REALLY? If you are weeks or months into a workout plan, I bet the initial luster of “NEW! PROGRESS! WINNING!” has worn off.

Have you been skipping that last rep, cutting out an exercise here or there, or getting bored and wanting to go home?

I know when I hit a plateau at the gym, it’s generally because I haven’t been pushing myself as hard as I had been previously. Track your workouts diligently for two weeks and see if these changes kick you back on track.

If you need a tool to track your workouts, check out Nerd Fitness Journey. It’s designed so when you wake up in the morning, you know the exact next step to help you reach your goals.

You can try it for free right here:

3) HOW iS YOUR SLEEP?…REALLY? This is one that most people skip out on. They are exercising, eating right, but for whatever reason, they’ve been slacking on their sleep.

It’s might be too much television…

Netflix can turn you into this.

We all know sleep is important – lack of sleep leads to increased levels of stress, less time for our bodies to rebuild muscle, to recover from strenuous activity, and more.

I know that if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep, then my performance in the gym the next day will suffer.

Can you honestly say you’ve spent two weeks with quality sleep, nutrition, and exercise?

In many cases, we think we’re stuck, and in need of some sort of drastic change or adjustment to kickstart progress again. Now, there are definitely instances where we ARE stuck or stalled, and that’s when things need to change.

However, before we cover the dreaded plateau, let’s get a few things clear.

Why Am I Plateauing?

This lego wants to know how to overcome a plateau.

To start, linear progress cannot continue indefinitely: 

  1. If you are learning to squat and you start with just the bar, adding 5 lbs a week (which is how you should learn to squat!), you will eventually reach a point where your body cannot build the strength/muscle fast enough to continually add 5 lbs a week. If it DID work that way, in three years everybody would be squatting 1,000 pounds.
  2. You will run into the same issues with weight loss. For example, it’s easier for you to lose 3 pounds a week when you are at 300 lbs than it is to lose 3 pounds a week when you are 150 pounds….there’s more of you to “lose” when you’re bigger and thus progress will be easier. If you could lose 2-3 pounds a week every week forever, at some point you’d disappear, and we don’t want that. Weight loss might slow to 1 pound every other week.
  3. Your margin for error gets smaller. When you are at a higher body fat percentage, or just getting starting with training, you can make a lot of progress quickly due to there being MORE of you to lose, or MORE gains to make quickly. As you start to make progress, you can’t keep making big progress without making more and more effort.
  4. Adaptive thermogensis. Our bodies WANT to maintain the extra body fat we have (“I don’t know when I’ll need this, better save”), and are actively working in unison to preserve it – so even after a few pounds, it’s going to be a persistent challenge to keep progressing. It’s a subject a dive in deep in the article “Why can’t I lose weight?” If you’ve stalled on your weight loss journey, this might be the problem, as your body is adapting to the body fat being lost.

Your progress at a consistent pace will definitely slow down, which can FEEL like a plateau. 

If you’ve been training for more than a few months, you might need to slightly adjust your expectations. Maybe this week you can only add 2.5 lbs to the bar. Or 1lb. Maybe your muscle-building will crawl to 1 lb gained a month.

It happens to all of us. Even Batman.

Batman giving you the thumbs up.

Now, if your progress stalls out COMPLETELY or you actually regress, AND you are doing all of the right things, then congrats!

You MAY have plateaued.

Like in games like World of Warcraft, at some point you will stop gaining experience from killing rats – you could spend all day doing so but because you’ve hit a certain level they no longer provide you with value.

It’s time to move on to attacking spiders, then orcs, then dragons.

It’s something Coach Jim brings up in this video on progressive overload:

When you started out, just doing 5 push-ups might have felt like a full workout. Now you can do 50 push-ups for a warm-up and not break a sweat.

Our bodies are constantly adapting and learning to manage the stresses we put on it, seeking the path of least resistance.

Back to our gaming analogy:

If it’s something worth doing, there will most likely be grinding involved, and that’s why I need to talk to you about The Dip.

No not a strength training type of ‘dip’, though those are good to help bust through a plateau too!

You can learn more about how we help build plateau-less workouts at Nerd Fitness by downloading our free Strength Training 101 eBook when you sign up in the box below:

Is a Plateau Normal? (The Dip)

A LEGO going very fast on their mountain bike.

I want to introduce you to Seth Godin, author of The Dip.

We all hit plateaus in our lives and quests for health and happiness. In order to be successful at the task at hand, we need to grind our way through that low point (or flat point) until we can climb out and continue progress.

Here’s a visualization of the dip:

A picture of "The Dip"

When you first start something new, you can make quick progress, and everything rocks because you see big changes.

However, after a few months, the reward you get from your effort decreases and it seems like you’re rapidly slowing down:

  1. In the first few weeks of weight loss, everything is GREAT! The scale is moving, your clothes are getting looser, progress is exciting because it’s coming so quickly. Then, you might have a few weeks where you’re really trying hard and yet…the scale stalls or increases.
  2. When building a new running habit, each new run is exhilarating – you rapidly progress from wheezing and coughing after two blocks to now being able to run a whole mile! A few months later, that progress slows, and you find yourself struggling with the same distances and speeds even though you’re doing all of the right things.
  3. When lifting weights, the first few months can be life-changing. Squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, push-ups. Every session in the gym is an opportunity to see massive progress compared to the time before, except for that week or two when you walk in and you have to lift less than before! What gives!?

When we hit that dip/plateau where our hard work seems like it goes unrewarded, it’s easy to give up and say, “I’m a failure.”

Not true.

We will all experience a dip when it comes to progress on things that are important to us.

If we want to TRULY be successful, we need to anticipate the dip’s arrival and plan for it so that it doesn’t completely derail us.

Much like grinding out experience points in an RPG, sometimes we need to grind out practice in life, workouts, nutrition, and more…until we can hit that sweet spot for progress again.

So, how do we stay dedicated, focused, and motivated through the dip?

How do we progress during the plateau when we feel like our hard work is a waste of time?

We focus on small wins, and find a way to get a teeny tiny bit better.

What Should I Do When I Hit a Plateau? (Setting Personal Records)

Success is setting a personal record.

In order for us to crawl out of a dip or off a plateau, we need to find a way to make a small win every day.

Think of these small wins like “a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”

The longer we’ve been training, the older we get, and/or the more advanced we get in our training, the more likely we’ll be to hit plateaus and the more necessary it will be to grind out small victories, prepare for dips, and power through them.

Here’s how you can grind out your own small wins and prove to yourself that you are still progressing when you are in the dip:

1) TRACK EVERY SET, REP, AND WORKOUT. Find a way to be better today in SOME WAY than you were yesterday, and prove to yourself that you are still making progress – even if it’s progress in a different way than you were progressing before.

If you are stuck at 3 sets of 5 reps of 150 pounds on the bench press and haven’t been able to go up to 155 lbs for a few weeks, try 3 sets of 6 reps of 150 pounds.

Or 4 sets of 5 reps of 150 pounds.

Then come back to 3 sets of 5 reps of 155 a few weeks from now, and see if you can do that.

If you wait 60 seconds between sets, try waiting 90 seconds instead and lift a different amount

As long as SOMETHING has progressed in some way – your total amount of weight lifted, decreased time between sets, one extra rep, or one more pound lifted – it proves to yourself that you made progress. Remember, progress makes us happy.


2) COLLECT TINY WINS. Optimus Prime doesn’t transform with one single movement; it’s a combination of hundreds of thousands of tiny movements that happen rapidly.

We are transformers (Joe especially), and our small changes add up too.

It’s these tiny, small victories that can push us over the edge. Enough small victories and we can reach that tipping point, that end of the dip where progress continues again.

Find a way to set a tiny win in SOME WAY each day that shows you that you are getting better/faster/stronger.

Here’s an example: I have been working on handstand balancing. For the past few months, my progress has stagnated and even gone in reverse on some days (helloooo Dip!).

I continued to work on building the habit of handstands for five minutes a day (Hard Hat challenge for the win!). Progress felt nonexistent, but I knew that my continued dedicated practice was adding up in ways that didn’t make themselves readily apparent.

I had “stalled,” so I focused on getting tiny wins: increasing flexibility in my wrists, staying against the wall as long as I could, practicing my kick-ups, tightening my core, etc.

Despite not being able to balance for longer than 10 seconds at any point in the past, I kicked up into a handstand, without even touching the wall (something else that had never happened before), and I held my handstand for 24 seconds!

Rebel Leader Steve showing you how to kick up to a handstand.

I still have a ways to go before I’m holding perfectly vertical handstands for 60+ seconds, but months spent grinding out practice in the dip have paid off.

I made it through the plateau, and my progress has continued rapidly after struggling for months. Those months of struggle were teeny tiny wins in different ways that added up until I hit that tipping point where progress exploded.

3) TRACK OTHER METRICS OTHER THAN THE SCALE. The scale can lie. The scale will DEFINITELY slow down even if you are making progress in healthier ways, simply due to the fact that you have less weight to lose than you did before! You might also be dealing with extra water weight, or bloat, or menstruation, or anything in between.

So, track other things! Here’s what you can track to help keep you motivated while plateauing:

  1. Take biweekly photos. Who cares if the scale isn’t moving. Are you looking better? Are you FEELING better? Do your clothes fit better? That is progress.
  2. Take measurements. Spend 5 bucks on a cloth tape measure (or one of these), and measure the important parts of your body. Maybe the scale isn’t moving, but you took half an inch off of your waist. Or maybe you added a quarter of an inch to your arms.
  3. Track your body fat percentage. A simple caliper is enough to show trends. Remember Saint? His weight went UP but his body fat percentage dropped. Had he only been tracking the scale, he might have panicked during his ‘dip.’ Fortunately, he was tracking more metrics and used that momentum to catapult himself to victory.

The goal is to consistently prove to ourselves that we are moving one step closer to our goal. 

This is exactly the system we used when we built Nerd Fitness Journey.

When you’re working through the app, not only are you doing fun missions, but you’ll see how tasks build up to your larger goal. There’s no getting stuck or frustrated, just log in and work on the next adventure.

If you want, you can sign-up for a free trial right here:

5 Tips and Tricks for Overcoming a Plateau

These heroes don't worry about plateaus.

The above is just the beginning. This will also help you make progress and get out of that dip:

1) Shock your workout. Our bodies crave efficiency, and love to be as lazy as possible, but we truly thrive on chaos. So introduce some chaos into your system!

Note: This is NOT the same as “muscle confusion” (which is a made-up marketing term to sell DVDs). We’re still progressing, lifting more, and doing the same exercises – we’re just throwing in some variation occasionally to help stimulate progress. 

If you do the exact same thing over and over and over, your body becomes more efficient at that activity.

In fact, your body can learn and adapt after doing the same thing enough times so that it burns fewer calories to carry out the process. So mix it up!

  • If you are trying to run a faster 5K? Mix in a day of sprints rather than just basic runs.
  • Trying to increase your deadlift? Rather than just doing a 1-rep max, do a day of higher volume, or train the deadlift twice a week.
  • Want to squat better? Squat with higher frequency. NF Senior Coach Staci followed an advanced Smolov Squat program for 13 weeks (Warning: not for beginners). Your body can adapt and overcompensate by getting stronger.
  • Want to improve your upper body strength/size? Try doing a PLP program along with your regular workouts. Starting with 10 total reps of Pull-ups, Lunges, and Push-ups, and every day add a rep, for 50 days.

2) Adjust your diet. Your body can also become quite efficient with calories (not to mention the oft-mentioned but controversial “starvation mode” theory), and can sometimes struggle to progress.

As we lay out in “Why can’t I lose weight?,” if you’ve lost a decent amount of weight, your body now burns significantly fewer calories each day (there’s less of you to manage!) This means you need to adjust your calorie intake!

So, I would start by tracking your intake and determining how many calories you should be eating.

ONLY after that doesn’t work would I recommend the following:

Consider throwing in one day a week of OVER eating, along with days where you are intermittent fasting. Keep your body guessing and see if that shocks your system back into weight loss mode.

Consider adjusting your macronutrient breakdown. Keep your protein intake high, and adjust your carbs and fats. Some people feel better or worse with high fat or low fat, high carb or low carb.

And remember, thermodynamics still rule all: weight loss requires caloric deficits.

3) REST! I’ve heard it said “there’s no such thing as “overtraining, just under-recovering.” Are you getting enough sleep?

Maybe Cartmen here is jetlagged.

Maybe you’re a new parent and trying to maintain your old workout routine on 2 hours of sleep a night.

Or work has you stressed like crazy and it’s causing you to eat like crap.

Rest is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle that it needs to be prioritized too. In the book Essentialism, this is referred to as “Protecting the Asset.”

You are the asset.

If you are trying to do too much, or you’re caught in a plateau, consider a week off, refocusing on sleep and recovery, and come back refreshed.

4) Adjust your goals. Maybe your body needs a new dragon to slay.

Again, nature loves chaos. If you are focused solely on weight loss, you might feel like you have stalled out. So shift your focus. Work on handstands. Or running faster.

Or doing your first pull-up.

Here's a gif of a pull-up in perfect form.

Pick a new skill!

Try something different. Give your body a chance to recover and then come back to it.

If you’re solely focused on the scale and it stalls out, it can be depressing. So put the scale away for a month, and instead focus on the process of getting stronger and eating better. Stop stressing and remember to enjoy the game you’re playing.

5) Accept that we have bad weeks. We are complex pieces of machinery.

Sometimes shit happens.

We just have bad weeks and can’t lift enough or we GAIN weight when we expected to lose weight. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you human.

So on days when you feel great, PUSH yourself harder. On days when you feel like crap, scale back the heavy lifting and focus on more reps or better technique.

The greatest predictor of success in our lives is grit (which can be developed). Grit is what you need to slog through these slow weeks. These dips are where we find out who’s truly dedicated. I know you are, and you know you are.

Remember, look for any sign of progress in any way to reveal that “light” at the end of the tunnel.

If you are stuck on a plateau when it comes to strength training, consider working with one of our Yodas in the 1-on-1 Online Training Program at Nerd Fitness! No guilt, no shame. Just somebody to keep you accountable, expert guidance from somebody that knows you, and peace of mind knowing you’re doing the right thing!

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How did you break through your plateau?

A picture of Bruce Lee

Here’s that dope Bruce Less quote I mentioned earlier:

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there. You must go beyond them.”

-Bruce Lee

Hopefully, I’ve covered everything you need to know about plateaus. What’s that? You were expecting some lame joke about plateaus somewhere?

You know me too well. Okay, how bout this one:

Did you know that a plateau is the highest form of flattery?

Get it?

Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

I want to hear your story:

  • Have you successfully busted through a plateau? Leave a comment with how you got out of it.
  • Are you currently stuck? If so, what’s ONE SPECIFIC piece of advice you’re taking from today’s article to apply to what you’re going to do this afternoon?

Let’s hear it! I’m excited to hear how I can help.


PS: We know starting with this stuff can be intimidating. If you’re looking  to take it to the next level:

  • 1-on-1 Online Coaching: A coach from Team NF gets to know you better than you know yourself and builds a workout program and nutritional strategy that fits your busy life, your body type, and your goals.
  • Nerd Fitness Journey: a fun app that will show you the path for overcoming any plateau. Sign up for a free trial below:


Photo Sources: olegmit1 ©, Nattapol Sritongcom ©, seeveeaar: success, Stefan Baudy: question, clement127: Eurobasket 2015, Four Bricks Tall: Mountain Biker, JD Hancock: Heroes, Anton Ivanov ©

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