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If you are a dedicated weightlifter, you have probably had to struggle with fitness plateaus at some point. What most lifters do when they reach a sticking point with their progress is they switch up the rep range or lifting technique in order to activate the muscles differently, but they usually won’t step outside the gym to explore other activities.
However, perhaps the best way to break through a stubborn plateau, especially if you have already tried with the weights to no avail, is to train in a sport which will address your areas of weakness in a novel way, and in many cases, produce the results you seek. Though I am a big proponent of weight training, I also promote training in other sports as a means of changing things up and challenging the body.
One of the most common laments I hear is that the shoulders often lag behind development of the back and arms. So if you have deltoid muscles which won’t respond to iron therapy no matter how you switch up your training, you might want to consider giving tennis or basketball a try. People who regularly engage in these sports tend to have some of the shapeliest shoulders and arms around, because the body mechanics which characterize them incorporate a lot of movement around the shoulder joints. If the region of your body which is lagging behind is your lower extremities, you can engage in sports such as soccer or cycling to ramp up your training efforts and shape up your legs rapidly. If team sports aren’t your thing, you could take up a martial art or boxing to improve your strength and agility while also making your physique appear more balanced.
On a personal note, I took a few flying trapeze classes last fall and was amazed at how much back recruitment occurred during those classes. Though I didn’t sign up for flying trapeze classes with a goal of widening my lats, they indeed became wider as a result of all the static hanging I did from the trapeze pole. I also noticed that after every class, I was sore in places where I never felt sore when I lifted weights. It was a great challenge for me which also enabled me to confront a mild fear of heights. I also found it challenging to refrain from shrugging my shoulders or pulling my body up as I would do during a pullup at the gym. I began to use my body in different ways, and it rewarded me with an improved back silhouette.
In essence, practicing a sport can often break people out of a weightlifting rut and force them to use their bodies differently. You can still adopt the “Gym Is Life” mentality, but by broadening your horizons, you’ll have fun in the process, improve your athletic prowess, and if you choose your sport wisely, may be rewarded with a more balanced and conditioned physique.