A common misconception about strength training is that every set must be brought down to failure for a positive adjustment.
When it comes to hypertrophy and endurance training with high repetitions, the body will eventually stop working due to your intolerance to enduring the high accumulation of hydrogen or the accumulation of lactic acid.
This is a natural process as the body protects itself from excessive muscle damage.
When it comes to low-rep, maximum-strength (1-3 reps) work, the body stops working because the muscle fibers cannot be recruited enough to do the work.
In certain situations it is beneficial to wear sets of exercises until the repetition fails, e.g. B. Tests with a maximum of 1 repetition or short microcycles aimed at increasing maximum strength.
In most cases, however, training to the point of failure is both unnecessary and detrimental to performance.2
Rarely, if ever, do I see my athletes or clients fail training a heavy compound joint movement.
Should you train to failure?
Unfortunately, in the last few decades the idea has emerged that training to failure is necessary to improve performance.
Proponents of this style often quote that there is a need to push customization and push the boundaries in order to pay homage to the old no-pain-no-gain adage.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, and the most effective methods are often less complicated than one might think.
The problem with training to the point of absolute failure at maximum strength is that it leads to neuronal fatigue and disturbances in resting hormone levels
I see most of the 1 rep max tests from beginners, advanced, and even some advanced athletes. Her performance is far from anything I think is technical.
The range of motion is often shortened dramatically, and they often look more like an attempt at survival than an elevator.
Athletes who push their way to failure session after session prepare for the inability to properly recover and repeat high performances over the next few days.
In a phase in which one is striving for strength, they become tired and weaker if they consistently urge to fail on a weekly basis. Additionally, it can lead to injury and withdrawal from weight training.
The label that heavy lifting makes them stiff, tired, and injured when in reality they never followed a properly structured plan.
When looking for hypertrophy or muscle endurance, achieving absolute failure is less detrimental from an injury-related, hormonal, and neuromuscular point of view. however, it is still unnecessary.
This can lead to overuse, excessive muscle damage, and similar peripheral problems.
If you resist the urge to bury yourself and keep pushing for the last rep, you will find the results more pleasant.
- The most effective training method is to incorporate the idea of RIR, Reps In Reserve.
- This means that with a percentage of 1 repetition or less, you are working 85%. In theory, you should do four repetitions, with a fifth attempt failing.
- Instead of doing four reps at 85% of your max 1 rep, the idea should be aimed at two or three technically flawless reps.
- This is a continuum that can be implemented with just about any rep range.
In 2011, the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science for Sport and Exercise presented a study3 in which two subjects squats with ~ 80% of their max. 1 repetition showed.
- Subject 1 stopped squatting when his movement speed decreased by 20% (which left more RIR) and Subject 2 stopped squatting when his movement speed decreased by 40% (which left less RIR)
- These two subjects followed the program for several weeks and the results were amazing.3 Although Subject 2 was doing more overall work and nearing failure; He recorded significantly less strength gain than Subject 1, who left each set before failure
This means that strength training should always be done with technical knowledge and that in most cases it is unnecessary or even detrimental to push for failure.
Obviously, certain situations are different for beginners than for experienced trainees. However, the general takeaway is the same.
How to structure the training:
Once you can accept that getting too heavy too often is a recipe for disaster, you will likely wonder what to do instead.
Exercising with extremely light weights and low intensities is certainly not the answer either, as you will not progress and eventually regress.
Training hard while training smart is what I preach to my athletes and clients.
Following a disciplined schedule with perfect technical execution and a heavy focus on recovery leads to the best results.
One of my favorite layout training methods is a method developed by Dr. Mike Stone from East Tennessee State University.
To check his volume and intensity with his programs, he implements a system for loading recipes on a very light, light, moderately light, moderate, moderately heavy, heavy, and very heavy basis.
These terms are certainly not arbitrary and instead correlate directly to a range of load percentages as follows::
|Load recipe||Load percentage|
|Very easy||65-70% 1 rpm|
|Moderately easy||75-80% 1 rpm|
|Moderately difficult||85-90% 1RM|
|Very difficult||95-100% 1RM|
Dr. Stone then uses these numbers to design his program weekly, with each day marked accordingly to match the total intensity for each lift on that day.
Click on the table below::
As you can see in this picture, each week is shown right under each exercise, along with the number of sets and repetitions that correspond to it.
- For exampleIf you take the incline bench press, you can see that for the first week, three sets of ten reps are prescribed for a moderately light weight.
- In this case, the person would perform the lift with a load equal to 75-80% of their maximum 10 repetitions and rest for two minutes between sets.
This method corresponds to the RIR paradigm discussed earlier and allows the individual to work within a 5% range for that particular exercise that day depending on how they feel.
In addition, the intensity increases steadily over the course of three weeks, peaking at moderately high intensity and discharging in the fourth week at low intensity.
This is just one way to organize your workout, but it is certainly a basic pattern for programming using a periodization strategy.
Remember to train intelligently and understand that sometimes the adage that less is more can still be true.
Training shouldn’t break you; It is a tool to increase your efficiency.
There’s a time and place to empty the tank and see your final total strengths. however, Nobody ever wins a strength training championship.
They let everything out on the pitch or field.
Think about what your current training is like and how you can implement a better strategy. Be honest with yourself and ask yourself if you are possibly too tough and falling victim to pain and winning a trap.
Train hard but train smart.
1. Ahtiainen, JP & Häkkinen, K., “Strength athletes are able to produce greater muscle activation and neuronal fatigue during high-intensity resistance exercises than in non-athletes.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2009, 23 (4), 1129-1134.
2. Martorelli, S., Cadore, EL, Izquierdo, M., Celes, R., Martorelli, A., Cleto, V., Alvarenga, J. & Bottaro, M., “Resistance training with no additional repetitions to failure Provide strength and muscle hypertrophy gains in young women. “European Journal of Translational Myology, 2017. 27 (2).
3. Sanchez-Medina, L. & González-Badillo, JJ, “Loss of speed as an indicator of neuromuscular fatigue during strength training.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2011. 43 (9), 1725-1734.