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I have been weightlifting now for a little over a year and I am wondering is it normal to hit a plateau meaning I am not seeing visible results anymore. I know visible results aren't priority but I am still curious to know. Also if there are anyways to combat this "plateau"

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    Hi @Chloe, what kind of workout program have you been using for the past year? Days a week/length of session/etc. would help. Also, has your overall weight maintained, gone up or down? Thanks!
    – Avogadro
    Oct 25, 2022 at 0:21

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In short: yes, it's very easy for this to happen.

To expand: when you first start lifting, you can make progress (both in terms of how much you can lift and in your aesthetics) very easily; the so-called "newbie gains". During this period, you can be going to the gym three times a week and basically just doing the same exercises every time other then increasing the weight when you are able to do too many repetitions and you will continue to get good results. However, after you have achieved these easy wins, you need to start taking a more structured approach, such as changing your programming (ie. what exercises you do, when you do them, how you decide what weights to attempt) and your diet (it's very often the case that people stall in progress because they're not eating enough calories and their body doesn't have the resources to recover and grow effectively after training).

What I would suggest is that you try a couple of things (apologies if you've already tried these - but your question wasn't super-detailed and so I hope you'll forgive me):

Try switching your program over to something that is designed to encourage "progressive overload", such as "StrongLifts 5x5". If you haven't done much work with the movements in there, such as deadlift, then establish a foundation with them through lots of practice and potentially hiring a personal trainer to ensure that your form is good - you might only need to pay for one or two sessions to do so. Be patient with this and strive for excellent form and follow the recommendations about when to go up in weight and when to go down. In my own experience, I spent my first year or two doing a simple program that didn't include deadlift or squat or overhead press and when I incorporated these into my plans and actively concentrated on improving them, I saw a big jump in progress.

Get a good idea of your current diet and try adding 200-300 more calories. Another big leap for me came when I committed to taking my diet more seriously - before then I had eaten what I thought was "quite well, and fairly healthily" but I didn't really know how many calories I was eating. I bought a cheap digital scale for the kitchen and installed MyFitnessPal and tracked every single thing for a week to get an idea of where I was at. It sounds tedious but it's actually really easy (and can be quite addictive!) and you don't have to do it forever, just to establish a baseline. Then try tweaking your intake to add a couple hundred of extra calories and see if that gets your progress moving again.

Consider accessory movements and flexibility work. This only makes sense after you've tried the previous suggestions but there are times where you may have a particular weakness that affects an exercise but where that exercise itself doesn't improve that weakness very much and so it would benefit from isolation work - for example, the bench press doesn't just use the chest, it uses the shoulders and triceps as well, and maybe your triceps are your weak point and are preventing progression but the bench press exercise itself isn't doing enough to improve them. You might want to try close grip bench press or dips or tricep pushdowns. Alternatively, you may find that doing more overhead pressing helps your bench press. There are a lot of factors and variables here, so this approach can be difficult to work with (and I, personally, have found it less effective than sticking to the suggestions above).

One final thing to consider, which I already touched on in the first point but which I think is worth asserting: if you haven't already, it's really worthwhile getting your form absolutely locked down. To use the bench press example again, I've trained with people who were able to put more weight on the bar immediately after I got them set up "properly" - the bench press is a compound exercise and you shouldn't just feel it in your upper body; if you have your feet firmly planted and aligned and if you have your shoulder blades squeezed together and pinned into the bench and if you have a very slight arch in your back then when you perform the movement then you should feel the strain in your back and in your abs and through your legs. If you have already got this down pat then fantastic! But if not then you may be able to unstick yourself from your plateau simply by improving your form.

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