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What does it mean to reach a plateau?

Callie Trolson - Missoula OsteoStrong Session Coach


When beginning sessions at OsteoStrong, regardless of fitness level, most people experience improvements in their overall strength within the first few weeks. Through continued weekly sessions, these improvements can continue for months and even years. However, once these sessions begin to feel less foreign to the body, many people hit a plateau at some point along their journey. Sometimes these plateaus can last for several months, but this does not discontinue your strength gains. Some OsteoStrong members have even seen plateaus that last for 18 months before they begin increasing their force production again.


Each Spectrum machine requires a different minimum threshold to specifically stimulate bone growth, which is measured in multiples of body weight (MOBs). For example, the lower extremity growth trigger machine requires 4.2 MOBs to stimulate bone growth. If you are achieving the required MOBs on each machine, then you are continually stimulating strength development, not only in the bones, but also in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. There is no research showing you must continue increasing your force production to continue building strength.


Another important aspect of a plateau to consider is that your body works as a kinetic chain, meaning the body acts as a system. Therefore, your body is only as strong as its weakest muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone. During a plateau, we are given the opportunity to strengthen the areas we did not know were weak. Your muscles can never be stronger than your bones and bones do take longer to strengthen than muscles, so everyone’s duration of a plateau will vary. This plateau will be reflected by the numbers we see on the machines but just remember that bones are still growing, and gains are still being made. This is a great time to build more balance in your neuromuscular system and your overall strength.


Session Variability

Beyond sessions at OsteoStrong, many individual’s experience plateaus in other types of physical activity, such as conventional exercises done in a gym. These plateaus can be easier to surpass because there are many different variations of exercises, and sets, repetitions, and weights that can be utilized. OsteoStrong sessions are based on a very specific, maximum effort contraction. Due to this, we can expect the variability of that maximum effort to be much greater than that of conventional exercise, and we can expect plateaus to last longer. 


Variables that can affect maximum force production are different week to week. These variables include:

  • Adequate hydration

  • High quality sleep

  • Electrolyte levels (sodium, potassium, and magnesium)

  • Muscle soreness from other activities

  • Proper nutrition, consuming minimally processed foods that contain a healthy ratio of proteins, fats, and carbs, as well as vitamins and minerals  

  • Inflammatory foods that disrupt natural cellular processes 

To help the OsteoStrong community normalize reaching a plateau, it can be very beneficial to consider the relationship between these weekly variables and your experience during your weekly sessions. The goal at OsteoStrong is not to regularly improve your force production each week, but to load the musculoskeletal system consistently and safely with enough force to stimulate strength improvements.

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