Training to Failure

Question

What do you think of training to failure? Does it work and if so what’s the best way to use it? I’ve tried it in the past and had great results, but could never stick with it.

Answer

Every few years, training to absolute muscular failure enjoys a renaissance of sorts so that’s probably why you’re seeing it come around again.

For too many years, the strength training community has lacked accurate measurements. Training to failure was an early way to ensure you hit 100% … of something.

Early advocates like Arthur Jones though, were quick to point out that there was more than one way to skin a cat, training like that.

Eccentric Failure

What he was referring to was eccentric failure, or the act of selecting a weight in the neighborhood of 20-40% higher than your 1RM, then lowering the weight until you could no longer lower it under control.

Jones claimed damn near miraculous results in the experiments he did on himself, and it soon spread in various forms to his other students.

I’ve tried negative only training, and used as he recommends and it’ll certainly get you stronger.

I’ll be honest though, and say that I think you need the concentric part of the lift as well. Looked at from my perspective, there are benefits to both and its no accident almost everyone with lots of muscle performs both.

Types of Muscular Failure Training

But back to failure for a moment…

In my mind there are 3 types 1.) Concentric 2.) Static and 3.) Eccentric. There may even be a 4th type, meaning partial reps to absolute failure.

I think if you’re going to try this, you need to start slow with perhaps concentric only failure training first. Negatives can be incorporated, but only sparingly IMO.

Static holds and partial reps are the domain of Pete Sisco today IMO. He has some interesting training software that uses a predictive model to tell you how soon you can train productively again, and how long is too long. It’s called the Engineered Gym, and if people are interested in high intensity type training, I’d encourage you to look into it.

Bottom Line

Training to failure works, but like all training the body doesn’t respond forever to it. You can absolutely refine it though for your purposes. In The Blueprint, we use it very judiciously and at a very specific time, more or less as a bridge into bigger and better things.

In that context, it’s worked incredibly well…..

Hope that helps…

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Coach Rob Regish

Coach Rob Regish

Rob Regish is an internationally recognized name in the field of health and fitness. He's been a weekly contributor to Superhumanradio.net for almost a decade, answering listener questions from around the world.

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