Should You Train to Muscle Failure

Should You Train to Muscle Failure

muscle failure

8x Mr Olympia Lee Haney

The answer is sometimes.  Sometimes you should train to muscle failure.  Now, that’s completely oversimplified, so lets flesh out the reasons why and how you can apply training to muscle failure in order to get the most consistent muscle and strength gains without plateauing.

Let’s first think back to a time during our training where we decided to really start pushing it hard and beating the living fuck out our muscles.  This may be what you are doing now.  You go to the gym and train chest and almost every set you perform you grind out every single last set to complete failure until you absolutely cannot push the weights another rep.  When your workout is finished you feel exhausted and you are confident that during today’s workout you trained as hard as was possible, so what you are doing must be the way the the promised lands of gains, paradise, and aesthetics.

After a month or so of training this way, you’ve made some nice progress but your strength isn’t

muscle failure

6x Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates

increasing much anymore, and you are starting to feel rundown.  So you decide to hit it even harder and now you are literally killing yourself in the gym.  Even so, it seems gains are only slowing even more and finally you notice months and years go by and if you look at yourself in the mirror and make an honest assessment, you’ve haven’t made much progress.

The above scenario is where training to muscle failure can severely hurt your progress, and it doesn’t matter if you take steroids or if you are natural, everyone who hammers the fuck out of their body is going to experience this.  It’s overtraining.  Your body cannot recover from repeated bouts of crushing it.

Muscle Failure is a Tool

Training to Muscle Failure is a tool in your arsenal to use wisely.  It is not the guiding principle.  Progressive Overload is the guiding principle in your progress and gains, if the weights you use for exercises are not going up, or the reps you use with the same weights are not increasing,

muscle failure

Lee Haney 8x Mr. Olympia

you have to reevaluate your training.  The following is the training style I use, which I learned from studying Dorian Yates, Lee Haney, and the famous strength coaches Mark Rippetoe and “Madcow2”.

Here is how muscle failure should be used in your bodybuilding or strength training.  It should be used in cycles.  After you’ve finished your noob gains where anything works, Your intensity in your training should look like a “Ramp” on a graph over a period of weeks. Pushing the intensity further and further until muscle failure is reached, and then backing off the intensity and proceeding to then ramp up again.

Go into the gym today and figure out how much weight and how many reps you can do with each of your preferred exercises.  For demonstration’s sake i’m going to use the example of someone who can bench press 200lbs for 10 reps.

We are going to first reduce the weight you are using and allow your body to build upmuscle failure momentum to start making Pr’s every week until you plateau again.  We are going to do this by ramping up to the 200lbs for 10 reps you can do now.  We will use percentages in order to choose the weight (intensity) for your ramping progression.  The ramp will look like this; week 1 70%, week 2 80%, week 3 90%, week 4 100%.

Let me make it clear that you are going to use 3 weeks of using sub maximal weights in order to build momentum and reach you current max again on week 4 followed by achieving new personal records every week until you plateau again.  I know you are really excited about lifting and getting stronger, I was too, and learning this principle made me want to rip my hair out. I WANTED GAINS NOW! I understand okay? just wait three weeks I promise it will be worth it and in months you will have gains that would otherwise take you years to attain.

So week 1 you lift 70% of your 200lbs max, so you bench press 140lbs for 10 reps on your heaviest set.  Week 2 you lift 80% of your max so you hit 160lbs for 10 reps, week 3 you lift 90% of max 180lbs for 10 reps.  Week 4 you meet your previous max 200lbs for 10 reps but instead of a struggle, it goes flying up with ease.

From here on out, you increase the weight by 5 pounds each week.  Week 5 is 205lbs for 10 reps, week 6 is 210lbs for 6 reps, week 7 215lbs for 10 reps, etc. until you stall again and cannot continue increasing the weight.

muscle failure

8x Mr. Olympia Lee Haney

You will likely be able to continue increasing the weights until weeks 11-13. When you plateau you take your new max for example 235lbs for 10 reps and do 70% of that weight for 10 reps the next week and then ramp up to and surpass 235lbs by again using our weekly 70%, 80%, 90, 100%, ramping progression.

This is how you use muscle failure as a tool in your training guys.  “Muscle Failure” is something you want to press towards and flirt with, eventually reaching, and then backing off again.  Training to muscle failure is a tool to use in your workout, and it is a fool’s errand to just go into the gym each session with the intention of slamming your body with as much intensity as it can possibly handle.  It cannot recover and “supercompensate”.

“Stimulate, don’t annihilate” – 8x Mr. Olympia Lee Haney

-The bodybuilder in thailand


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