A key reason why many individuals don’t achieve fantastic results from their workouts is because the concept of desiring failure is misunderstood and misapplied.
When I initially started weightlifting, I would push myself to the point of failure on every set. Because no one cautioned me otherwise, I thought it was okay. The way Arnold lifted and the norms of the bodybuilding community led me to believe that reaching muscular breakdown was an intended outcome of workouts.
For a long time, that meant approaching resistance training in a purely absolute fashion. Even if I required a spotter to prevent me from getting crushed by a barbell (which really occurred), I didn’t consider a workout a success unless I was completely unable to move my muscles by the end of it.
But what if I told you that straining your muscles to the point where they give out isn’t the goal?
Many people don’t get great results from their workouts because they misunderstand and misapply the concept of pursuing failure, which is important whether you’re attempting to gain muscle growth, enhance a few muscle areas, or just use resistance training to improve your general health.
- Advertisement -
A muscle can be broken down in order to grow, or it can be destroyed to the point that it is difficult to recover.
There is a one-to-one relationship between muscle use and development. However, failure should be utilized sparingly if you want to create stronger muscle fibers or gain muscular mass.
Finding a method to push yourself hard, add repetitions, sets, and weights, without reaching that point when your muscles stop working, is the ideal strategy for both short-term and long-term improvement. (Not including injuries, which are more frequent while pushing oneself to the limit.)
We consulted Jordan Syatt, proprietor of Syatt Fitness, to help you choose how far to push yourself and how intensely to work out. To help you develop a more efficient strategy for your exercises, he poses five questions in this essay. -AB
Should You Push Yourself to the Limit?
Recall the very first time you tried weightlifting. What happened?
You presumably went to a weight rack, grabbed the biggest dumbbell you could handle, and did the greatest reps of an exercise you could manage. Constant repetitions. And you did that until you simply couldn’t lift it any longer.
Then you got some sleep, presumably until you were refreshed enough to try again. Naiveté and simplicity may be refreshing at times.
But that ease of use is also the reason why so many individuals are unhappy with their workouts. Most individuals don’t know how hard to push on any particular set, even if they know what exercises to do, how often to work out, and how much work they put in overall.
They have no concept of how to bulk up. They are weak and have no idea how to become powerful. They have learned how to successfully complete the training session’s assigned exercises.
There’s a key distinction to be made. There are a number of components that work together to determine the end consequence of your gym session. Muscular tension, metabolic stress, and muscle injury all play a role in muscle development. Most people believe that the best method to control those factors is to do every set until your muscles are aching.
It’s why “training to failure” is such a hotly contested issue in the fitness community, despite the fact that it’s widely misunderstood.
Having read extensively on the subject, I can attest to the fact that there is no easy solution. Taking each set to failure is advocated by some as the key to success by others who claim it will lead to injury and “overtraining.”
As with so many questions in life, there is no universally correct answer; rather, it is determined by the specific person and their unique set of circumstances.
If you’re going to put in the time for training sessions, you may as well tailor them to your specific needs.
So, before you go for another set at muscle failure, think about this.
Does Muscle Growth Require Training to Failure?
Unfortunately, there is a lack of studies on the topic of “training to failure.” Bodybuilding and strength athletes typically need to increase their muscle hypertrophy to boost their performance. Training to failure is typically appropriate for these people since it “may activate a greater number of motor units” and may improve muscular hypertrophy.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of the research on failure-based training, go no further than Willardson et al. The authors concluded from their analysis that training to failure is an effective strategy for boosting muscle growth, allowing for maximal strength increases, and overcoming training plateaus.
While Willardson did recommend training to failure, he cautioned against doing so on a regular basis because of the risk of overtraining and repetitive stress injuries. Therefore, the decision on this matter should be based on the lifter’s current training level and desired outcomes.
Linnamo et al. discovered that training to failure led to a higher increase in growth hormone release than did training that did not end in failure. This study is not indicate that training to failure is superior than other approaches, but it may provide some explanation for the observed success of failure-based training among athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness fanatics.
Although further research is welcome, your own relevance is the most important factor.
Let’s focus on you first, then. After all, whether or not you should workout to exhaustion depends largely on your specific goals and training approach. And the answer to that question boils down to a series of five queries.
Second Question: Are you exceeding the 90% Limit?
Whether or not training to failure is beneficial or even necessary depends largely on the intensity of the workout. The intensity of a workout is measured by how much of a percentage of a person’s 1-repetition maximum (1-RM) they are lifting.
My recommendation is to avoid training to failure at levels greater than 90 percent of your 1-repetition maximum.
Muscle growth will not be aided by training to failure with such big weights, and it may even prevent strength increases. You shouldn’t use the greatest amount of weight you can push, press, deadlift, or squat if you’re going to achieve utter or full failure.
In addition, if you train to failure with near-maximal weights, you’re far more likely to make mistakes in your form, which greatly increases your risk of injury. Don’t get me wrong, lifting weights is something you can do for the rest of your life, but you have to be aware of the hazards you’re taking.
In general, you shouldn’t train to failure until you’ve reached between 50 and 85 percent of your 1-rep max.
I feel that for the most majority of intermediate and advanced learners, these ranges represent reasonable parameters to follow, albeit I rarely advocate training to failure at either extreme.
Training to failure at 50% of your 1-repetition maximum can be effective, but it can take a long time to accomplish and isn’t a good option for people who are short on time. However, even at 85% of your 1-repetition maximum, you should still need a spotter.
When Training to Failure, How often should you do it? (Verify Your Experience Level)
A trainee’s “level” might be classified into one of three broad groups. I refer to these three stages as “the trainee continuum” and they include novice, intermediate, and expert levels.
What a person requires from training will vary greatly depending on their current skill level; for example, a novice will have quite different needs than an intermediate or experienced trainee.
Examples of compound motions that beginners should focus on perfecting are the squat, bench press, deadlift, and chin-up.
Because it is so challenging to keep perfect form while exhausted, pushing novices to utter failure is probably counterproductive.
If you’re a novice and haven’t been lifting regularly for at least 2 years, it’s probably not a good idea to train to the point of muscle failure until you’ve built up a significant amount of strength, even if you’re lifting less than 90% of your 1-repetition maximum.
Instead, what should I do? Alternatively, you might use the “reps in reserve” (RIR) strategy. Both new and experienced weightlifters can benefit greatly from RIR.
You shouldn’t aim for total exhaustion, but rather for a distinct kind of tiredness. If you want to do 8 reps, for instance, you’ll plan for a rep range of 6 to 8 and leave yourself 2 reps in reserve (2 RIR). Your muscles will get a good workout this way, and you’ll be able to leave some reps in the tank on purpose.
It may take some experimentation to determine how many reps you actually have in reserve; but, once you know, this strategy is fantastic for increasing your workload, number of sets, and repetitions while improving your technique, exhaustion, and recovery.
Train to failure more frequently if you are an intermediate or experienced learner rather than a novice. Following the 90 percent rule, you can train to failure two to four times per week if you choose a weight that is between 60 and 85 percent of your one-repetition maximum.
How frequently should you push? To answer your question, it will be important to consider your final aim as well as the workouts you want to do.
Fourthly, What Do you want to Accomplish?
Many aspects of a training program, including whether or not an individual trains to physical failure, are determined by the end aim.
Look at the distinctions between powerlifters and bodybuilders as an example. Maximum strength training (including preparing the nervous system to handle higher weight) is a primary focus for powerlifters. As a result, they put in some serious time in the gym working on their 1-repetition maximum. In addition, powerlifters put special focus on total-body, complex motions that call for a high level of expertise to execute safely.
Because strength is not always the answer, bodybuilders with the aim of muscle gain typically exercise at lower intensities of their 1-RM. And since it takes less ability to maintain perfect form while performing smaller, isolated motions meant to target particular body regions, bodybuilders prefer to focus these kinds of exercises.
Bodybuilders, on the other hand, are able to train to failure more frequently than powerlifters because of these methods and the exercises they choose to undertake.
It’s worth noting, too, that many top-tier powerlifters also routinely train to exhaustion. Even as a powerlifter with a world record, I include failure-based training into my routines. However, when it comes to large, complex motions, I practically never train to failure and instead stick to intensities between 60% and 80% of my 1-repetition maximum.
Fifthly, What kinds of Workouts are you Currently Doing?
Lifts that demand a higher degree of ability should be done to failure less frequently. The opposite is true: training to failure is more socially acceptable while performing a lift that requires less expertise.
Training until failure is risky, especially with snatches, which are among the most complicated lifts. For failure-based training, you can use more basic multi-joint exercises like chin-ups, bench presses, and lunges, but always proceed with care. Squats and other exercises are the same way.
Last but not least, training to failure is most effective when focusing on single-joint exercises, such as bicep curls, triceps extensions, and calf raises.
The Sixth Inquiry: How do you think?
If you are unable to finish another full repeat, you have failed. The onset of weariness is usually to blame for this.
However, fatigue is a highly relative concept that defies precise measurement. Muscular failure can mean different things to different people depending on their pain threshold, level of determination, and other psychological aspects. So it’s hard to tell if someone is training to actual muscle failure or just stopping the set early.
Also, while some people enjoy pushing themselves to the point of failure, others do not, and forcing them to do so may discourage them from continuing to build their strength. Long-term program adherence relies heavily on one’s familiarity with the psychology of one’s customers (or oneself) and how one responds to training.
While it’s tempting to make sweeping generalizations, the answers to the questions above will determine whether or not training to failure is appropriate for you. When used effectively, failure-based training may be a powerful tool in any trainer’s toolbox. Use it carefully and with prudence if it matches your choices, needs, and objectives.
Do not give up. Get Started Succeeding Today
Here at Born Fitness, we’ll break down all the diet and exercise jargon for you. Here’s how to quit floundering around aimlessly and start making healthier decisions about your life.