Change and challenge should be pillars of your workout routine. One way to challenge your body is to present it with techniques that go beyond your standard level of comfort, forcing you to expend more effort and your muscles to exert more force than they are accustomed to. Promoting intensity in this way can stimulate change and adaptation in your body, increasing your levels of muscular and cardiovascular endurance and strength.
Training to muscle failure is one technique that, sparingly used, can bring a challenge to your body. If overused, training to failure can lead to overtraining and fatigue, so it should be used cautiously, infrequently, and with the approval of a doctor. With that said, training to failure can be a catalyst for bolstering your fitness program and reaching new levels of athleticism.
What is “Muscle Failure?”
Muscle failure is a point of exhaustion in a body system, so that a muscle can no longer perform an exercise with appropriate form. Perhaps you have performed eight pull-ups, and you feel that a ninth would not be possible. You go for it, and find that you can successfully pull your body up. You then try to muster the strength for another repetition. On this tenth attempt, your muscles succumb to fatigue about halfway up. They are unable to pull anymore. You might be able to get your body up with sloppy technique, but to do this would tempt injury. You have just experienced muscle failure. Its comes after a number of repetitions are performed continuously without predetermined limitations, until the targeted muscle group is taxed and can no longer execute the movement without sacrificing proper form.
Pushing yourself to muscle failure is not easy or pleasant, because it inevitably brings a degree of temporary discomfort and pain. A focused mind and a mentally tough attitude are necessary. However, exposing your muscles to this kind of challenge can be beneficial. Working a muscle group to complete exhaustion stresses that muscle group to its maximum, and thus brings about an optimal level of growth and development. Simply put, subjecting muscles to at least some discomfort is necessary to bring about optimal results.
Suggestions for Using Muscle Failure in Your Routine
There are a number of ways to incorporate muscle failure into your workout. Here are a few examples of what this might look like:
- Try to go to failure on your last set of a given exercise. For example, it you have performed 3 sets of 25 sit-ups, attempt as many repetitions as you can safely perform on your 4th set.
- Lessen the amount of weight you use. If you performed 2 sets of 8 Lat pull-downs at 135 pounds, decrease the weight by 20 pounds and go to failure.
- Choose only one exercise per session to apply this method. If your chest workout consists of flat bench, incline bench, and cable crossovers, use this method on the last set of crossovers.
- Avoid this method on exercises where you are in a prone position unless you have a spotter. Examples of this would include any type of bench press or squatting exercise.
References: NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training, Journal of Exercise Physiology Online
Originally posted 2013-08-05 12:49:44.