Training to Failure doesn’t Trigger Muscle Growth, Progressive Overload does!

See our most recent posts.

Countless studies have demonstrated that progressive overload is the key to muscle and strength gains.  Going to failure too soon in your workout will hurt your performance, and undercut your total workout volume. We want to maximize our performance during each workout. We do this by stopping short of failure on all but the last set of each exercise. Your maximum effort should be given to the last set of the last exercise for any given body part.

Our goal is to lift as much as possible during each workout. And to increase that overload from week to week, month to month. You accomplish this by keeping a repetition or two in the tank, until the very end of your workout. As soon as you take a set to failure, your performance on succeeding sets will degrade substantially. For example, if you went to failure on pull-ups using your 10 repetition maximum. You might only get 7 repetitions on your next set and 5 or 6 on your third set. Your total number of repetitions would have been 22 or 23. Had you stopped a couple of repetitions short of failure on your first and second set, you would have been able to perform at least 8 repetitions on all three sets for a total of 24.

We want to lift heavy, but stay fresh as long as possible during your workouts. If this was your last basic compound exercise for your back, and you took the last set to failure, you might have achieved a total of 25 or 26 repetitions. Your workout volume in either case would be greater than if you had taken the first set to failure. Taking sets to failure should be primarily used as a means of creating progressive overload and not a goal in and of itself.

Progressive overload is the trigger for muscle growth, not training to failure. Training to failure is a method of producing progressive overload, not a trigger in and of itself, as some experts would have you believe. Scientific studies have demonstrated the superiority of performing three sets of an exercise vs. one set to failure. One set to failure will stimulate growth, but it is a minimum effective dose. If you don’t want to invest much time in the gym, one set will produce results, but they will be suboptimal.

RPE Scale (lifting)

A simple, yet effective way to evaluate your rating perceived exertion (RPE) is using this table developed by respected strength coach and competitive powerlifter Mike Tuchscherer.

A 2007 study by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded, “training to failure should not be performed repeatedly over long periods, due to the high potential for overtraining and overuse injuries.” Another study which had lifters using loads that were 75% of their 1 rep max concluded that, “Fatigue and metabolite accumulation do not appear to be critical stimuli for strength gains.”

Short rest intervals and training to failure repeatedly will increase human growth hormone levels, but I haven’t found any studies that correlate it with long-term increases in muscle mass. I have found studies that have concluded just the opposite. Going to failure too soon in your workout will hurt your performance, and undercut your total workout volume/progressive overload.

Training to complete failure isn’t necessary to maximize growth, but you do have to work with heavy loads, perform the lifts with good form, and work sufficiently hard. Working close enough to failure means you don’t want to leave more than one or two reps in the tank on your working sets.  Unfortunately, many people aren’t very good at knowing how close to failure they actually are during a set.  Taking your last set of each exercise is a foolproof way of making sure you maximized the stimulus and are working hard enough for your muscles to grow and validating your perceived exertion level on your preceding sets. For example, if you performed two sets of 6 repetitions with 200 and your perceived exertion was 9, meaning you could have performed only one more rep, but you’re able to perform 8 repetitions on your third and final working set, you now need to revise your RPE from a 9 to an 8 for your proceeding sets.

 

Modern powerlifters and old school/pre-steroid era bodybuilders often advocated avoiding muscle failure. They wanted to successfully perform a goal number of repetitions on each set. They wanted to build small wins. These small wins kept them motivated, because each victory was another step closer to their goal. After all, our goal is to get bigger and stronger, not failure. Bill Pearl often criticizes proponents of going to failure every set, by saying that it quickly led to overtraining, injuries, and mental burnout. He argues, who wants to go to the gym with the goal of constantly failing. He advocates stopping one or two repetitions short of failure. His advice follows a bodybuilding axiom, “stimulate, don’t annihilate” your muscles into growth. The key to muscle growth is progressive overload, not training to failure.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

I hope you have found these suggestions helpful. Could you please Like and Share if you

Discipline pushes us, motivation pulls us, but intentional habits keep us moving towards our goals.

Best wishes and Best Health!

Follow us on Facebook

See our most recent posts.

Book NOW Available on Amazon!

Are you ready to reboot and reset your relationship with food and exercise? Most programs focus on the mechanics of weight loss, but fail to adequately address the psychology of change required. Most people know more than enough about nutrition and exercise to lose weight, but fail to take action. This book takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger.

cover page done

The book contains:

  • 7 Change Strategies for Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle
  • A Flexible Diet Program that Doesn’t Put Any Foods Off-limit,  including Alcohol
  • 20-Week Workout Log with Progress Assessments (Downloadable PDF)
  • 3 Strategies for Resetting your Body Weight Set point to Keep the Weight Off
  • A Nutrition and Training Program Based on Science, not Bro Science.

The Fat Loss Habit: Creating Routines that Make Willpower and Fat Loss Automatic takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. The program uses high-impact change strategies that make the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle easier. The nutrition and workout program, like the change techniques have all been proven effective, and are all backed by research and scientific studies.

Our BOOK The Fat Loss Habit is NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!!! We would greatly appreciate a brief REVIEW. Your feedback is our best marketing tool and it will help us to make a better product. Your review will help other people who want to make a positive change by helping them to find our book.

Follow us on Facebook

Book NOW Available on Amazon!

Book Introduction

 The Fat Loss Habit: Creating Routines that Make Willpower and Fat Loss Automatic takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. The program uses high-impact change strategies that make the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle easier. The nutrition and workout program, like the change techniques have all been proven effective, and are all backed by research and scientific studies.

Could you please Like and Share if you enjoyed this post. Best wishes and best health.

Advertisements

Building Muscle and Strength Made Simple – The 3 to 5 Program

Follow us on Facebook

See our most recent posts.

deadlift pexels-photo-277832

One of the simplest program designs I have come across is the 3 to 5 Strength Building Plan. I found it in Kettlebell Rx by Jeff Martone. Perform 3 to 5 weekly strength training workouts. Perform 3 to 5 basic exercises in a circuit. Perform 3 to 5 sets of each exercise. Perform 3 to 5 controlled repetitions per set, stopping one or two reps short of failure. Rest 3 to 5 minutes between sets and shake out the tension in the muscles. It’s as simple as it is effective. Probably better than 95% of the programs you’ll find in the current Muscle and Fiction magazines.

These simple program parameters are back-up by scientific research.

1)     3 to 5 repetitions

First let’s look at the repetition range of 3 to 5 repetitions. A challenging weight should be approximately 85-90% of your one repetition max (see chart below).  Studies have shown that training with weights close to your 90% 1 rep max produce greater muscular size and strength gains than lighter loads (70% 1 RM).

1 rep max estimator

2)     Stop one or two repetitions short of failure

bill pearl

Bill Pearl

Second, we will examine the recommendation to stop one or two repetitions short of failure. Going to failure too soon in your workout will hurt your performance, and undercut your total workout volume/progressive overload. A 2007 study by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggested that training to failure should not be performed repeatedly over long periods, due to the high potential for overtraining and overuse injuries.” Another study which had lifters using loads that were 75% of their 1 rep max concluded that, “Fatigue and metabolite accumulation do not appear to be critical stimuli for strength gains.”

 The 2007 study by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning also asserted that habitually going to failure may result in decreased resting levels of testosterone and increased resting levels of cortisol, which are counter-productive to hypertrophy. It may also make you more susceptible to overuse injuries and overtax your nervous system, especially when performing taxing movements like the squat and deadlift. Only the genetically gifted and or those using performance enhancing drugs can routinely train to failure on all sets. Powerlifters are some of the biggest, strongest people on the planet, and they rarely train to failure. They generally have a target number of repetitions that they want to achieve to have a successful workout. We will do the same. You want to generate power on each repetition, and power is mass times acceleration. As you approach failure, the weight will slow to a grind; at that point, you are not generating much power.

      Pre-steroid era bodybuilding legend Bill Pearl often criticizes proponents of going to failure every set, by saying that it quickly led to overtraining, injuries, and mental burnout. He argues, who wants to go to the gym with the goal of constantly failing. He advocates stopping one or two repetitions short of failure. Some recent studies have suggested that going to failure isn’t required to achieve muscle growth as long as a sufficiently heavy load is used, 75 to 90% of your 1 RM max, 4 to 10 repetitions are performed, and enough volume, 3 to 5 sets are performed for each exercise. Bill says that workouts should be a positive experience that leaves you feeling great, not wiped-out. His advice follows a bodybuilding axiom, “stimulate, don’t annihilate” your muscles into growth. The key to muscle growth is progressive overload, not training to failure.

3)     Rest 3 to 5 minutes between sets

rest between sets

Next we will look at the recommendation to rest 3 to 5 minutes between sets. Forget those 1 minute rest intervals in the fitness magazines. Your performance from set to set will decline quickly. Short rest intervals and training to failure repeatedly will increase human growth hormone levels, but I haven’t found any studies that correlate it with long-term increases in muscle mass. I have found studies that have concluded just the opposite. Countless studies have demonstrated that progressive overload is the key to muscle and strength gains.  If you want to build strength and muscle its best done naturally by resting 3 to 5 minutes between sets. A study conducted by the Kennesaw State University found that subjects that rested 2.5-minutes between sets made substantially greater gains in muscle mass than the subject that only rested 1-minute between sets. Eastern Illinois University conducted a study that concluded, “When the training goal is maximal strength development, 3 minutes of rest should be taken between sets to avoid significant declines in repetitions. The ability to sustain repetitions while keeping the intensity constant may result in a higher training volume and consequently greater gains in muscular strength.” Another study by the State University of Rio de Janeiro found that resting longer, 3 to 5 minutes, between sets led to more repetitions being performed over multiple sets and higher rates of muscular power. These two factors would result in greater overload being applied to the muscle. Progressive overload is required to produce increases in muscular size and strength. I could site more studies, but I think is pretty clear that resting a minimum of three minutes between sets is best for producing strength and muscle gains.

4)     Perform Exercises in a Circuit

Last we will examine the recommendation to perform exercises in a circuit. Performing exercises for unrelated muscle groups in a circuit will allow you to perform more sets, without sacrificing performance by shortening rest intervals between sets. Structuring your workout so that you are performing three or more exercises in a circuit will allow you to rest 3 to 5 minutes before coming back to an exercise. Avoid rushing between exercises. Give yourself approximately 45 seconds to catch your breath. The programs in our future book, The Fat Loss Habit, will generally allow you to rest 3 to 4 minutes between sets. For example:

workout circuit

I hope you have found these suggestions helpful. Could you please Like and Share if you enjoyed this post. Best wishes and best health!

 

 

Discipline pushes us, motivation pulls us, but intentional habits keep us moving towards our goals.

Best wishes and Best Health!

Follow us on Facebook

See our most recent posts.

Book NOW Available on Amazon!

Are you ready to reboot and reset your relationship with food and exercise? Most programs focus on the mechanics of weight loss, but fail to adequately address the psychology of change required. Most people know more than enough about nutrition and exercise to lose weight, but fail to take action. This book takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger.

cover page done

The book contains:

  • 7 Change Strategies for Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle
  • A Flexible Diet Program that Doesn’t Put Any Foods Off-limit,  including Alcohol
  • 20-Week Workout Log with Progress Assessments (Downloadable PDF)
  • 3 Strategies for Resetting your Body Weight Set point to Keep the Weight Off
  • A Nutrition and Training Program Based on Science, not Bro Science.

The Fat Loss Habit: Creating Routines that Make Willpower and Fat Loss Automatic takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. The program uses high-impact change strategies that make the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle easier. The nutrition and workout program, like the change techniques have all been proven effective, and are all backed by research and scientific studies.

Our BOOK The Fat Loss Habit is NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!!! We would greatly appreciate a brief REVIEW. Your feedback is our best marketing tool and it will help us to make a better product. Your review will help other people who want to make a positive change by helping them to find our book.

Follow us on Facebook

Book NOW Available on Amazon!

Book Introduction

 The Fat Loss Habit: Creating Routines that Make Willpower and Fat Loss Automatic takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. The program uses high-impact change strategies that make the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle easier. The nutrition and workout program, like the change techniques have all been proven effective, and are all backed by research and scientific studies.

Could you please Like and Share if you enjoyed this post. Best wishes and best health.

#FatLoss #WeightLoss #NewYearsResolution #GetHealthy #HealthyLife #Fitness #FitnessAddict #Nutrition #FitQuote #GetFit #NoExcuses #TrainHard #GetStrong #WeightTraining #Workout #Motivation #Positive #Inspiration #Habit #Happiness #YouCanDoIt #Success #BodyTransformation #FitGirl #FitMom #FitFam #FitCouple