What it is and How to Beat it.
In yesterday’s article and in prior articles I mentioned the term “false failure” and I’ve had several questions asking what false failure is.
Failure on your reps is called “Momentary Muscle Failure”. That’s when you reach a point in moving a weight where your muscle is incapable of completing the rep.
“Momentary” refers to the fact that given only a few seconds rest you could complete another rep.
False failure occurs when your reps or sprints or whatever movement reach a point where the discomfort level reaches a point where you fool yourself into thinking you’ve actually reached momentary muscle failure.
Everyone, including me, has done this. It’s common. It’s much more common than it should be.
With all fitness goals you have to push yourself if you are going to progress. In lifting, you don’t need to go to failure on every set. But you do need to do it once or twice on every isolation or single joint exercise or at least on every muscle or muscle group. I don’t recommend for heavy compound lifts (squats, for example).
But pushing a muscle to failure is one of the biological triggers for growth in size and strength.
“Leaving one in the tank” (stopping one or two reps short of failure) is ok until you reach your last set of an exercise. But leaving 4 or 5 “in the tank” is going to put a rapid halt to any gains.
How to Beat False Failure
1. Extend the set-using rest-pause, drop sets, half reps, slow negatives, assisted sets (you need a partner) or any number of others methods to extend the set. These will provide more volume. But if you’re struggling with going to failure you’re going to have the same problem on methods for extending your sets. You’ll just get in more volume.
2. High Rep Challenges- I’ve given you several high rep challenges over the last few months. See Up for a Challenge?, Are You Ready for Your Next Challenge?, The 1000 Rep Workout. The high rep challenges serve several purposes but one is to get your body and your brain accustomed to the discomfort. Do the challenges and your head will eventually adapt to the discomfort and allow you to go closer to failure.
3. Close your Eyes!-I can’t explain it scientifically. But it works. I’ve been using it for years. When I feel like I’m at or near failure I’ll close my eyes and I can usually get out from 1 to 5 additional reps. Sometimes more.
The only explanation I’ve seen relates to Proprioception mechanisms. That’s Geek speak for your body’s ability to receive stimuli originating in muscles tendons and other internal tissues without visual guides. Basically, motor performance in muscles improves when you take away visual stimuli. Just as hearing becomes more acute in people visually impaired.
We are also able to think, remember and concentrate better with our eyes closed. Same principle just relating to muscle stimuli in this instance.
And you’ve undoubtly seen it before without realizing what you were seeing. Look closely at Eddie Hall’s eyes on a record 482 kg (1060.04 pounds) dead lift.