Does your exercise program include ‘training to failure’? Sets of exercises where you keep going until you cannot physically compete another rep?
No? Maybe you should – there are loads of benefits you might not know about.
Let's clarify a few things before we begin.
Firstly, we’re not talking about completing rep after rep of movements with poor technique and deteriorating mechanics. We’re defining failure as ‘technical failure’ – going to (ideally) the rep before your form falls apart.
And secondly, we don’t recommend this all the time. It’s a tool that should be used as part of your program – not as the whole program.
What's equally important as training to failure is to train to failure using correct form. You are not training to failure if you're cranking them out with poor form. You are training yourself to get injured.
Now you might ask "How can I train to failure without hurting myself?" Well thankfully 4Life Movement has you covered with how to safety train to failure so you can increase your gains!
What is Training to Failure?
Training to failure refers to working so hard during your set that you struggle to complete the last rep. This might mean using a heavy enough weight to make your muscles want to quit in the five to 12 rep range. Or if you’re training with lightweights or with just your bodyweight it means performing enough reps or manipulating the intensity, so you hit failure in the 15 to 30 rep range. Training to failure leads to muscle growth, increased strength and helps break through training plateaus.
How to Safely Train to failure
Practice lifting safety.
First and foremost, if you’re going to make a goal of failing or nearly failing your last rep of the set, know how to keep yourself safe. The best way to do this is by using a spotter or a personal trainer who knows how to spot your lifts safely.
Find the right program for you.
When you decide to ramp up your intensity with some good old failure sets, you need to find a program that makes sense. To avoid things such as overtraining, make sure to cycle your training to failure-oriented program so you're not doing it for weeks on end. A good guide to follow is to use one method of training to failure per four-to-six-week cycle.
Here are four types of mircocycles you can implement training to failure with. During this, you will choose one cycle to do per every 4-6 weeks:
Microcyle One: Choose two or three bodyweight exercises to take to failure as finishers after your heavier lifting sessions.
Microcycle Two: Use drop sets with your main compound lifts to hit failure, starting with heavy weights and ending with light weights.
Microcycle Three: Use tempo training to help you take your accessory lifts to failure.
Microcycle Four: Use pause reps in your main compound lifts to help you reach failure with moderate weights.
Rember the rest of your training should remain the same. Choose only the indicated part of your program to failure.
Because training to failure causes a lot of muscle damage, you’ll need more time to recover than when you’re training less intensely. Since you’re going to cause your muscles so much damage and your system so much fatigue, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. This will help your body repair the damage faster and help keep you from overtraining. You’ll also have to make sure you’re eating enough to keep your body fueled during and after sessions. If muscle gain is your reason for hitting failure, you’ll need to be focusing on eating for mass anyway.
Who Should Train to Failure?
As long as you’ve got enough experience lifting, hitting failure can help you grow muscle even when you have limited access to the training equipment of your dreams.
Fail for Success
Maybe you’ve been training for a while and need a new way to increase intensity and stimulate muscle growth. You might not have access to heavy weights. Or you may want to give yourself a new and intense training stimulus. To avoid overtraining, mental burnout, and increased injury risk, only use one method of training to failure at a time. So when you’re ready, choose your fighter, eat enough food, and fail as hard as you can.