Monday, May 2, 2016

The Rules of Training to Failure


Training to muscular failure is a proven tool for both strength training and muscle growth. But too many people are doing it wrong. This article is about reaping the benefits of training to failure and avoiding the consequences of over doing it.

What is “Training to Failure”?

Often called “momentary muscle failure”, it means lifting a weight for a number of repetitions until you can no longer complete another rep with good form in the concentric (contraction) portion of the lift.

Why does training to failure result in more strength and muscle growth?

When you lift a weight (or do any kind of work) your body will only recruit the number of muscle fibers needed to do any given amount of work. Each muscle fiber works on an “all or nothing” basis. Either it is recruited 100% and contributes to the effort or it is not recruited at all. That particular fiber may contribute to the effort for as little as a fraction of second (for some fiber types) then its “done” until it has time to recover.
Each rep recruits more fibers as others fail. When you train to failure you have recruited the maximum number of individual muscle fibers. And usually, the last fibers recruited are the fast-twitch fibers. They also happen to be the largest.

When a muscle fiber is stressed (It’s called metabolic stress) beyond its limits it adapts. The more fibers you recruit the more fibers adapt and grow.
Training to failure has also been shown to substantially increase the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH).

So, why not just train to failure all the time?

Metabolic stress is not the only key to strength and muscle growth. Other factors leading to increases in strength and muscle size include:

·        Mechanical tension
·        Intensity (weight)
·        Time under tension (TUT)
·        Volume (weight x reps x sets)

There is only so much energy and recovery ability to go around. Go overboard on one source of growth and you short change another. Usually the first growth factor to be short changed is also the biggest factor in increasing hypertrophy and strength-that factor is volume.

Think about it like a marathon. If a runner starts a marathon in a flat out sprint he’s not going to have the energy for 26.2 miles. Use training to failure too often or for too long or at the wrong time and volume will suffer and proper recovery will suffer.
Training to failure is not only hard on your muscles; it also puts considerable stress on your central nervous system.
You have to balance sufficient volume and recovery ability with your training program.

By all means, use training to failure as the valuable tool it is. But there is a wrong way and a right way to do it….

·        Don’t train to failure on any heavy compound sets or any highly technical lifts
·        Don’t train to failure using high percentages of your 1RM. Keep the weights below 60-%-70% of your 1 RM. Form will inevitably break down and increase the chance of injury when using a high% of your 1RM
·        Don’t use a protocol of training to failure for more than 4 to 6 weeks. Then take a minimum of 2 weeks off from training to failure before beginning any other program using training to failure.
·        Don’t train to failure on every set. Train to failure on only the last set of an exercise at most. And, until you are sure your recovery is not jeopardized, I suggest training to failure on only one set per body part.
·        Whenever possible, program training to failure at the end of your workout. You want to be sure you are able to get the necessary volume in before expending the extra energy required for training for failure.

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