Should You Be Training To Failure?
When I first started working out way back then, I was taught that the only way to build muscle was to beat the crap out of them day after day in the gym. I was told that you needed to physically put so much stress on the muscle and push until you could no longer push anymore or else no muscle growth would occur. That often lead me to be so sore and tired that I’d often skip workouts the following day. Many people in the gym live by this principal of going all out every single time they work out, but in the long run, it’s going to do more harm than good. Especially if you’re in there frequently.
Nowadays when I train, I almost never, ever train to the point of complete and utter muscular failure. Complete muscular failure means that no matter how much effort you put in, you will not be able to move the weight for another single rep. Don’t get me wrong. I still train with absolute intensity in the gym, but I never, ever attempt a rep past the point of already being fatigued, using strict form. I’m not saying that training to complete failure is bad or anything and that you should never do it, but when I train, it never gets to the point where my eyes want to pop out of my head, or have a vein burst.
Now why don’t I train until muscular failure?
If you have ever been to the gym with me, you’ll know that I never struggle to push weight on the big lifts past the point of fatigue. So many times I’ve had guys tell me that I’m a straight pansy, and that I’m scared to push past my limits because I don’t crank out the extra few reps until my arms give out, and than do some more. They always ask why I stop when it looks like I can push for 1 more and why I never try push hard enough. Now I have my ways to train, and I’m sure you have yours. Why do so much extra work, when you can stimulate strength and muscle gains by doing only what is needed? But, with all that being said, I pretty much never end up training until failure for 2 reasons:
- Purposely training until failure every single time you’re in the gym can impact recovery time and may lead to injuries
- Training until failure is extremely taxing on the body both physically and mentally
Now let’s talk about the first point and how it can impact recovery time and cause injuries. If you are ‘training balls to the wall’ every single time you’re in the gym, for 6 days a week, you may be proving that you’re putting in the work for the muscles, but you’re more prone to over training and preventing any muscle gains. The reason you’re prone to over training is that you’re working way harder than your body can fully recover (if you have workouts the following day). It might not seem like it to you, but if you train too often, with too much intensity, there is a good chance that sooner or later you will hit a wall, and your gains will cease, even if you train body parts that are not sore. You may be able to pull this off for a while but over time, your gains will decrease drastically. Training until absolute failure can also lead to injuries. If you’re pushing way past the point of already fatiguing, chances are, your form may not be so good and you are open to making unnatural movements while you’re trying to move the weight.
The second reason why I do not train until muscular failure is that it is taxing on the body. Many guys will argue this point, saying that as long as a body part is not sore, it can be worked out. I completely agree. It can be worked out, as long as you do not take the workout until the point where you feel like you cannot physically move anymore. This goes back to the over training thing. Training until failure every single time can have affects on the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is responsible for generating impulses that cause your muscles to contract. When it’s not allowed sufficient time to recover between workouts, it will automatically switch into a mode to “protect” the body. It can do this in many ways, such as decreasing mental focus and motivation, and causing early fatigue.
To sum it up, I’m not saying that you should never train until muscular failure. Just don’t do it all of the time. A lot of experienced bodybuilding coaches always suggest stopping one rep before the point absolute failure (this is the point where you cannot perform another rep with good strict form) for compound movements such as the bench press, dead lifts and rows, and train closer to absolute failure during high reps, for exercises such as dumbbell curls, abs, chest flies. With that said, if you do choose to train to absolute failure every single time you train, you should keep in mind not to train too frequently and make sure your body has ample time to recover.