Some folks use the gym as a place to socialize. They can be seen chatting between sets. Some folks use the gym as a place to unwind. They do sets with low weight and never lose their breath. Other people appear distracted, sending text messages and paying no attention to how long they are resting between sets. If you are serious about getting results, then you must keep your training sessions short and intense; and I suggest you become an expert at failure.
If your goal is hypertrophy or fat loss, then pushing the body to muscular failure delivers results. Many people don’t understand what it means to take a set to failure. Failure is not discomfort. Failure is not burning or pain. Failure is what happens when there is a gun to your head and you cannot complete the rep. Never forget that the goal of strength training is to create damage in the muscle tissue. This damage occurs as microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers. No damage, no results.
When You Should Not Push to Failure
There are certain exercises that I do not push to failure for safety reasons. Let’s get those out of the way now so we can get back to failing.
- Deadlift. Properly executing a deadlift requires focus and perfect form. Mess this up because you’re fatigued and you have a recipe for a back injury. Just don’t.
- Squat. Again, to squat safely requires extreme focus to protect the spine. Pushing the body to squat under extreme fatigue is silly folks.
- Olympic lifts such as the snatch, clean, and jerk are even more complex than the deadlift and squat. Don’t even think about it.
- Don’t be a dummy. Don’t fail at a bench press without a spotter. You won’t look tough and it’s embarrassing. Sweaty man during intense workout.
Muscular Failure and Fat Loss
When you break down muscle tissue in an intense training session, you launch a cascade of powerful hormones in the body. The body recognizes that there is a problem and goes to work repairing the damaged tissue. This repair requires tremendous amounts of energy. The body burns more calories repairing damaged muscle tissue than it burned during the workout that created the damage in the first place. This is why an intense workout creates a double whammy for fat loss. You burn the calories in the workout and then you burn calories again repairing the muscle tissue. Metabolic rates remain higher up to 48 hours after an intense strength training session. Source
The answer is not more cardio
Think steady state cardio helps you burn fat like pumping iron does? Nope. When you step off the treadmill, you’re done burning calories. No muscle damage. No need for repair. No metabolic supercharge. Read this article about why steady state cardio doesn’t work very well. Here’s a scholarly article if you remain unconvinced. Source.
Remember that a strength training session should be 45 to 60 minutes long. No one should spend 2 hours lifting weights.Doing more exercises in a half ass fashion has no benefits to your strength or your central nervous system. If you are not out of breath after a set, your intensity sucks. If your shirt isn’t drenched halfway through your workout, you are probably wasting your time. When you complete one exercise and are ready to switch to another, don’t take your time moving the plates around. Set up quickly and keep moving. If you can perform 3 sets of 12 of any exercise, it’s time to increase weight.
Trick Your Body With Periodization
Your body will adapt to a new workout regimen in approximately 6 weeks. After this time, if the workout is not modified, then the body will stop making changes. If you are doing the same workouts over and over again for months at a time, you will hit a plateau, guaranteed. The only way to break through a plateau is to shock the body with a different regimen. The exercises must be changed or the number of reps per set must be changed (or both). Sets should still be taken to failure when the number of reps is changed. (For example, if you were performing reps with 40 pound dumbbells for 3 sets of 12 and failing on the 12th rep, then for the next cycle, you could jump to 50 pound dumbbells and perform 5 sets of 6, aiming for failure on the 6th rep. For more information on this technique, read this article about periodization. Source
When I see a new subscriber, I am humbled and excited. I’m always learning, reading, practicing, and training so I can help you be the best athlete you can be. No matter what stage of life you are in, never forget there is an athlete inside you. Please do the world a favor. Be an inspiration to those around you. Let your inner athlete out to play…and fail often, damnit!