Every guy, no matter his age, wants to be strong and virile. When you start weight training, it’s common to make impressive gains.

The problem is, after a while, your body adapts to the weights, the exercises, and all the stress you’re putting on those fabulous muscles. Suddenly your growth plateaus, and it seems like nothing you do can get the gain train back on track.

How do you overcome this? Here are five strategies to prevent your growth from stalling so you keep getting stronger.

  1. Work Every Angle. Never neglect training a muscle group just because “it’s too hard” or you don’t like the exercises. Most guys like pumping up biceps and pecs because those gains are easy — for you and everyone else — to see. Pushing through “leg day” is another more daunting prospect.

Remember, the key to success in weight training is to work every muscle group to fatigue, safely and effectively, through using a variety of different exercises. That means legs, too! (Or whatever your least favorite muscle group is.)

  1. Hit Stragglers First. It’s always wise to work out your weakest (or most neglected) areas first. If, for example, working legs is difficult — or the prospect doesn’t exactly fill your head with happy thoughts — then work them on Mondays. Starting out your week rested and renewed after the weekend, it’s easier to hit the gym with manly vigor and train your lower body with all the animal strength and intensity you can muster.

To reward yourself for a killer leg workout, go over to the dumbbell or EZ-curl rack — that is, if you can walk — and work biceps to get a dynamite body pump from bottom to top.

  1. Have a Battle Plan. Just getting to the gym may be enough for some guys. But if you crave sizeable gains, you’ve got to add structure to your program. Schedule your workouts into the week and don’t miss them. Keep a journal, and record the exercises done, weights lifted, and reps cranked out, as well as notes on how you feel.

Cycle (periodize) your training so that you work different muscle groups and combinations of muscle groups on different days. A sample schedule might be: Day 1, lower body and abdominals; Day 2, arms and shoulders; Day 3, chest and back.

  1. Hit the Free Weights. There are certain free-weight exercises that are a must. Weight machines are fantastic for isolation and specialization, but free weights are best for increasing muscle size, flexibility, and strength.

Squats, deadlifts, and flat bench presses are essential to anyone’s strength training program. Whether performed with a barbell or dumbbells, these fail-safe lifts improve brute strength by stimulating production of testosterone and growth hormone. You’ll also cut your body fat in the process!

  1. Build-in Rest. Take time off for recovery. Muscles grow bigger and stronger not during actual training, but when you allow them adequate time for rest. Serious athletes and bodybuilders often train only four to five times per week.

Your body needs rest periods and proper nutrition to recover from the hard work of training. On days off, go easier, walk, swim, eat healthy, and just maybe, take naps!