So using my template, lets use the bench press as an example. This features 3 times a week. As a beginner you may be using the sets across method, for example bench press 3×8 for 50k. When you can perform 3 full sets of 8 overload by adding weight in small increments to the bar. 2.5kg/5lbs is my recommendation.
Now say you get to 100kg in this linear fashion. On Monday you perform 100kgx4, 100kg x4 and 100kg x 4. In the next workouts on Wednesday on Friday you perform the same as Monday. Clearly you are not getting stronger and progressing so this leads to my first strategy on overcoming a weight training plateau.
First Strategy to Overcome A Weight Training Plateau
Now on Monday, what you would do is decrease the weight you are stuck on by 10% and work your way back up. So in this example you would start at 90kg. So perform 90kg x 8 x 3 sets, on Wednesday perform 92.5kg, Friday perform 95kg and so on. These will be perceived as light weights even to the tired trainee but resist the urge to add more sets and let the unloading do its job.
Once you get back up to the weight you were stuck on, the extra rest and recovery during unloading should allow you to move linearly up in weight once again.
Second Strategy to Overcome A Weight Training Plateau
This strategy should be used in the following scenario. This is where your progress may have actually regressed which can happen if you are not resting enough. The build up of fatigue is higher, so the back off period should be emphasized even more.
In the first scenario the trainee was stuck on the same weight and performing the same reps. Now assume the trainee is stuck at the same weight but instead of getting 4 reps for 2 or 3 workouts in a row, the last workout he performed only 1 or 2 succesful reps.
The first strategy wouldn’t work so well as shaving 10% off would still feel heavy and wouldn’t allow sufficient rest and recovery. The first back off workout should be light and easy and lower in volume. In my template you were performing 3 sets, so reduce this to 1 set. Alternatively, warm up as usual up to the last warm up set and then stop, doing no work sets at all and just let the warm up serve to maintain motor pathways.
The next workout you perform, as you are performing 3 sets, this workout would warm up to 10% below the weight you stalled at and performed for 1 set. This prevents detraining and also allows some rest.
For the third workout, a decision needs to be made. Do the same as workout 2 but if this feels light then perform 3 sets across. If you still feel tired just stop at 1 set and try again in the next workout.
Eventually you will be able to perform 3 sets across at the weight 10% below, and at this point just move up linearly once again until you get to the weight you were stuck on and beyond.
Once again this advice comes from the great resource Practical Programming for Strength Training.