I am a big proponent of failure training. This style of training involves around taking at least one set per exercise to complete muscle failure in order to stimulate muscle growth and strength. A lot of people understand this, but they don’t understand what it means to push a muscle to complete failure. Let me explain…
If I told you to complete 8-12 reps for your final set of an exercise then you would probably pick a weight to lift that you think you can get 8-12 reps. This is where the problem comes in. I will watch somebody pick up a relatively heavy weight and then perform 8-12 reps with it. Once they get to rep 10, 11, or 12. Then they stop the set, set the weight down, and are ready to move on to the next exercise. Most people pick a weight that they could probably get 13 or more reps with! Most people simply do not push themselves hard enough. Let’s be real, it hurts to push yourself to failure. The muscles hurt, your head hurts, you’ll be out of breath, you’ll feel dizzy, you’ll feel nauseous, and you won’t want to do it again!
If you complete 12 reps with a fairly heavy weight then you probably think that you have done enough to build muscle. This is where you are wrong. You can’t stimulate the muscle to grow unless you put it in a very uncomfortable position. The muscle grows from stress and the only way to stress the muscle is to stress your body with failure training. The muscle doesn’t know how much weight you are lifting, it only knows whether or not it can get the job done or if it needs to grow bigger and stronger to get the job done. We want to convince the muscle that it needs to get bigger and stronger. The only way to do this is to put the muscle in a position that it can’t keep up. It will then adapt, and with rest and proper nutrition, grow to be able to handle the task at hand!
For example, if I gave you the knowledge and materials to build a house and told you to build it then what would you do? You would first realize that you don’t have the tools to build the house. So you would get the tools. Then you would realize you need workers to help you build it so you would hire workers. Lastly, you might need heavy machinery to get the job done so you will get the machinery. What happened is you were stressed when you realized you couldn’t complete the job. You then decided to get the tools, manpower and machinery to do the job. Once you had this then you would complete the job and you would build the house!
The muscle will do the same thing. If you put the muscle in the position that it can’t get the job done then it will make sure to get the tools, workers, and machinery to do it. You getting the tools, workers, and machinery to do the job is the same way the muscle will increase in size and strength to do the job! The important thing that must happen is STRESS! Stress comes from failure! If you did not stress then you would never get the necessities to build the house, if you don’t do this then you’ll mess around trying to build a house but never get anything accomplished. If you don’t push a muscle to that stress point then the muscle will sit around doing the same thing it always does and you’ll never make any gains. You’ll grow by stressing the muscle so make sure you learn how to train to failure!
First I want to say that training to failure means that you will pick a weight and then lift it until the muscle physically cannot complete another rep. This will be hard, this will be painful, but this will work!
Let’s say I tell you to take your final set of every exercise to complete muscle failure in the 8-12 rep range. Your first set will be a warm up and then every set after that you will increase in weight. Your final set should be the heaviest weight that you think you can lift to reach failure in the 8-12 rep range.
Now, you are approaching your final set. You’ve chosen the weight that you think you can reach failure in the 8-12 rep range. The next step is to then lift that weight until you can’t physically complete another rep. Let’s say you only get 6 reps. You went too heavy and the next workout you will know to make adjustments in weight. Let’s say you get 13+ reps. You went too light and the next workout you will know to make adjustments in weight. Let’s say you get 9 reps. This is perfect. You failed in the suggested rep range. Now, the next workout I want you to use the same weight and try and get more than 9 reps. That is now the number to beat! You will do this every workout until you can get 12 or more reps. Once you can get 12 or more reps with that weight then I want you to increase the weight by 5-10lbs on the next workout. Once you increase the weight then you’ll likely fail around the 7-8 rep range again. You’ll then keep the same weight every exercise and work your way back up to 12 or more!
If you continue to reach failure in the 8-12 rep range, and you continue to increase the weight used, then you will gradually get bigger and stronger over time! It is a very simple theory, but it takes a lot of hard work to consistently do this. Once you get to the point where your very strong and the gym no longer has weights that are heavy enough for you then you can incorporate “rest-pause” sets and “drop sets” to failure. These advanced training techniques will help you guarantee that you will always be pushing a muscle to failure so that it can grow bigger and stronger!
Let’s get better together!