What is a Plateau Period and How to Break Through It

When striving towards a goal, whether it is losing weight, learning a new skill, or advancing in a career, it is common to experience a plateau period. This is a time when progress seems to stall or come to a halt, even though effort is being put in. It can be frustrating, demotivating, and even lead to giving up. But, it is important to recognize that a plateau period is a normal part of the journey towards success. Understanding why it happens and how to break through it can help to overcome this hurdle and continue towards the ultimate goal.

Why Do Plateau Periods Occur?

A plateau period occurs when the body or mind becomes adapted to the current level of effort or activity, and it no longer challenges the individual. This can lead to a decrease in motivation, as progress is no longer being seen. The body and mind need to be continuously challenged in order to continue making progress.

Physical Plateau Periods

In terms of physical activity or weight loss, a plateau period can occur when the body reaches a set point or level of adaptation. This means that the body has adjusted to the current level of exercise or calorie intake, and is no longer responding to it, therefore progress stalls.

The body may also adjust to a certain type of exercise, making it less effective. For example, if someone has been doing the same strength training routine for a long period, their muscles will eventually adapt and not experience the same level of strain, therefore not making further gains.

Mental Plateau Periods

In terms of mental plateau periods, this can occur when a new skill or task has been learned and has reached a level of proficiency, but not yet mastery. Progress stalls at this point, as there is no longer the excitement and challenge of learning something new, but there is still a gap between proficiency and mastery.

How to Break Through a Plateau Period?

Breaking through a plateau period requires a change in approach or mindset. Here are some strategies for overcoming a plateau period:

Change Up the Routine

For physical plateau periods, changing up the exercise routine can stimulate new muscle growth and progress. This can mean increasing intensity or duration, incorporating new exercises, or trying a different form of exercise entirely.

For mental plateau periods, trying a different approach or perspective can lead to new insights and progress. This could mean seeking out new resources, taking a break and returning to the skill with fresh eyes, or finding a mentor or coach.

Set New Goals

Setting new goals can provide motivation and direction for continuing progress. This could mean setting a new weight loss or fitness goal, aiming for a higher level of proficiency in a skill, or seeking out a new challenge entirely.

Recruit Support

Having support and accountability can provide motivation and encouragement through a plateau period. This can mean talking to a friend or family member, joining a support group or community, or hiring a personal trainer or coach.

Reframe the Mindset

A mindset shift can help to overcome mental plateau periods. Instead of focusing on the lack of progress, focus on the journey and the small successes along the way. Recognize that progress may not always be linear and setbacks are an opportunity to learn and improve.


A plateau period is a common occurrence on the journey towards success. It can be frustrating and demotivating, but it is important to recognize that it is a normal part of the process. There are strategies for breaking through a plateau period, such as changing up the routine, setting new goals, recruiting support, and reframing the mindset. By implementing these strategies, progress can continue towards the ultimate goal.

FAQs about Plateau Periods

  • Q: How long do plateau periods typically last?

    A: Plateau periods can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the individual and the level of adaptation.
  • Q: Is it possible to prevent plateau periods?

    A: It is difficult to prevent plateau periods entirely, as adaptation is a natural response to the body and mind. However, regularly changing up the routine and setting new goals can help to delay plateau periods.
  • Q: Can plateau periods be harmful?

    A: Plateau periods are not typically harmful, but they can lead to frustration and demotivation if not properly addressed.


  • “Breaking through a Plateau: Tips from a Personal Trainer.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 May 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise-plateaus/faq-20057848.
  • Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. “The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success.” Crown Business, 2013.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *