Hit a plateau? Try Rule of 60

Have you ever trained for months, and then realized you weren’t making progress? A while back I hit a significant plateau, my bench one-rep max was right at 405 lbs., my squat one-rep max was right under 600 lbs., and my deadlift was 500 lbs. for multiple sets and reps. I wasn’t able to go beyond those numbers. But why? My body composition and nutrition were solid, so I knew it wasn’t that. 

I was at a true training plateau, and I needed to do something about it. 

I researched other programs for plateaus, dove into the science of what was happening and how to improve, and worked overtime to ultimately develop the Rule of 60. But before I share that with you, let’s dig into training plateaus. 


Training plateau, explained. 

A training plateau is when you no longer make performance gains through your current implementations. This can be with weight loss, muscle mass gains, strength gains, or performance. 

Plateaus are a result of an inadequate stimulus. This can be due to under-stimulation (not enough total volume and/or not enough intensity), or over-stimulation (too much total volume and/or too much intensity). Ultimately a plateau is a sign from our body that something needs to change. 

In order to determine if you are in a training plateau, assess your current training and lifestyle. Is your nutrition, hydration, and sleep adequate? If your answer is “no” to any of them, start improving those. (If that is true for you, you won’t want to miss the blog post next week, “Five strategies to Improve Workout Performance,” by my friend and performance dietitian Mike Polis.)

Training or “Working out”

Ask yourself if you are actually training or just “working out”. Training refers to a periodized program with an initial start and end point. Along the way, exercise selection, volumes, and intensities will be manipulated to reduce the chance of injury while increasing the likelihood of reaching your goal, whatever that is. A workout is a singular event, it can be randomized, lacks intent, and over time will likely fail to produce the results a periodized program can. The injury risk is greater, especially when not tracked. 

Assuming you are training, how long have you been on your program? If it is under 4 weeks, keep attacking your program. I know I don’t have to tell this, but results take time and commitment. If it has been 4 weeks and you aren’t seeing a change in clothing fit, no pounds down, no performance improvements, your intensity may be too low. But If you have been doing the same routine that initially brought you great results, 3 – 4 months ago, and have not experienced any improvements, it is time to change it up. 

Try the Rule of 60

The rule of 60 helps those looking to improve body composition or strength. It is for those who need more stimulus whether it be volume, intensity (load), or a challenge. It is not for those in need of decreasing their stimulus – you need REST. Rest should result in recovery and better response to the training program. 

The Rule of 60 is a four-week program I developed that can be sustained successfully for this time frame. I lay out all the details of this in my downloadable training program.

Here are some of the basics:

The Rule of 60, simply put, is your total volume per lifts equal up to 60 reps. That looks like 4x15, 6x10 or 5x12 for the exercise composition (all = 60). The auxiliary lifts are 1x60 or 2x30, 3x20, or 4x15. The intensity (weight) used is self-regulated and based off Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) of 8 to 10 sustainable at 60 second recovery between sets. The weight selected on the front is relatively low compared to any 1RM.  

From there, I include general performance preparatory (GPP) movements to help with additional caloric expenditure. And of course, I have an athletic background, so no workout is complete without short distance sprints. But don’t worry, I also included some long slow distance runs to allow the body to recover.

By the end of the 4-week program, due to the principles of adaptation, you are moving more weight, have more endurance, and your recovery within and between workouts is improved. 

Upon completion of the Rule of 60, I generally recommend a true strength driven training cycle or resumption of normal resistance training schedule. Test your maxes after the Rule of 60 cycle, and use these when moving into your next cycle.

If you are in a training plateau, you don’t have to stay there. Check out my Rule of 60 program for everything you need to get back on track. 


*NOTE: You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting any fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs. Do not start any fitness program if your physician or health care provider advises against it. If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain shortness of breath, or any other adverse health symptom at any time while exercising you should stop immediately.  

The health and fitness information on this page has been prepared by Coach DJ Taylor and is for educational AND informational purposes only 


Sarah Orner