You plateau by doing the same thing, even if it's a sound approach to working out. You can try upping the wattage of your workout, but added intensity is only part of the exercise equation. Shock training can help you get beyond a plateau.
Shockingthe system may be nothing more than replacing the bench press with flies, or mixing free weights into your Nautilus circuit.
But don't take our word for it. Go right to the master himself. In Arnold: The Education Of A Bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger gives himself credit for inventing shock training,or, at least his own extreme masochistic variations of it back in the early '70s as he was approaching peak form.
Already a Mr. Universe champion, Schwarzenegger was running up against a wall. He and a training partner decided they were going to shock the hell out of their legs, so they took 250 pounds of plates into the forest and dived into three hours of squats in the fresh air.
"I began by doing 20 repetitions ... then my partner did whatever he could," he writes. "Then it is was my turn again. We ended up doing something like 55 sets of squats each. The last hour seemed endless. But it worked. Our thighs pumped up like balloons."
While few of us are seeking such an extreme effect from our workouts, the lesson it teaches is an important one. An occasional peak effort followed by ample rest may shake things up for the better.