When you’re training hard, hitting a training plateau can be incredibly frustrating.
But first of all, let’s hit on an important distinction.
A training ‘slump’ and a training ‘plateau’ are two different things…
I go into detail about the differences between slumps and plateaus in this article here, but basically a slump is a relatively short-lived event, one to four weeks long, in which your skill level actually goes down. Usually it’s caused by a specific cause, for example illness, overtraining, or not enough sleep. Fix the underlying cause and your level starts to improve again.
But when you’re in a plateau you don’t get any worse. The problem is that, no matter how hard you try, you just don’t get any better either.
It’s one thing to suffer if you’re making progress towards a goal; at least there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Suffering without progress is much harder to deal with.
A plateau typically lasts much longer than a slump – often one to six months. It seems like it’s never going to end. And it’s doubly frustrating because during this time your training partners usually insist on continuing to make progress, which widens the gap and leaves you even further in the dust.
Everybody deals with plateaus if they only train long enough.
In the video below, which I shot right at the end of a frustrating cardio session, I talk about the three steps to break out of a training slump…
First, don’t freak out. Plateaus are a normal part of any long learning or training process.
Of course jiu-jitsu players hit slumps, but it happens in every endeavor.
Runners hit plateaus when their running times just stop improving. Academics hit plateaus when they just don’t have any new insights. Businesses hit plateaus when they just stop growing.
Plateau Buster 1 – Try to Identify the Underlying Cause of the Plateau
This isn’t always possible, but if you can figure out what’s causing your plateau then you can fix it.
For many people the underlying cause is training volume.
Maybe you’ve gotten as good as you can get training twice a week. Yes, every time you go to class you learn something new, but in between classes you also forget stuff. Maybe at twice a week the knowledge flows into your cup as fast as it drains from it, and that’s what’s causing your plateau.
In this case you need to either increase the amount of training you do, or find some other way to really maximise the limited training time that you have available.
Maybe the underlying reason is physiological. It’s hard to get better if your body is fighting off a low level virus or you’re overtrained. If you think that this is what’s happening then get some bloodwork done and see your doctor.
Maybe it’s your technique, and you need to get a tune-up from your instructor or some other expert. Pay for some private classes and see if that helps.
All this being said, it’s not always possible to figure out exactly what the underlying cause of your plateau is. So let’s move on to the next step of this 3 step process…
Plateau Buster 2 – Try Mixing Up Your Training
If you’re just not getting better with your main techniques then maybe it’s time to take a break from them and try something completely different.
If you’re a closed guard player then maybe work on your spider guard or de la Riva guard…
If you always do standing passes then maybe start playing with kneeling passes…
If you always go for mount and never take the back then maybe it’s time to start working on your back attacks…
Maybe, just maybe, by changing things up and getting out of your routine you’ll manage to get out of your rut, bust through your plateau, and start improving again. At the very least you’ll have worked on a different aspect of your game and deepened your overall understanding of jiu-jitsu, which isn’t a bad thing at all!
Plateau Buster 3 – Just Grind Through It
It’s important to understand that everyone eventually goes through a period of time when they get super-frustrated with jiu-jitsu.
This is totally normal. If it were easy then everyone would be a black belt, and if you haven’t experience it yourself then you just haven’t been training long enough!
Ultimately if nothing else works then the answer is to just keep on grinding. Keep on pushing long enough and you’ll break on through.
There is a certain strength of character that gets developed when you keep on falling down and force yourself to get up again, time after time.
Fall down seven times, get up eight. It’ll make you a better person!