Exercise to failure: benefit or harm

Failure to refuse is different. In one case, failure is a reliable and time-tested method of stimulating anabolic processes, in the other – a one hundred percent way to slow down muscle growth. Find out how different training options are different, and what scientific data is behind all this!

Author: Jacob Wilson, Ph.D., a certified specialist in functional and strength training

I constantly hear contradictory advice. Explain whether it is good or bad to exercise before muscle failure?

In a professional environment, opinions on this issue are divided. From a physiological point of view, failure occurs in a positive phase of repetition, when the muscles are not able to develop sufficient effort to continue the forward movement of the projectile upwards. But the opponents and apologists of the training to the point of failure most often express their arguments not with physiological terms and concepts, as if this issue touches the most intimate corners of their soul, wounded by a high-intensity training. And it does not matter, a professional sportsman argues with you or a simple lover.

On the one hand, everyone knows the phrase "training to failure – the path to nowhere." On the other hand, we know that many champions claim that working at the limit of human capabilities is the cornerstone of muscle growth. Arnold Schwarzenegger summed it all up when he said the following: "The latest 3 or 4 repetitions – that's what drives muscle growth. The pain line separates champions from ordinary people. What the majority lack is the strength of will and determination to tell myself that I will overcome pain, whatever it costs me. "

Personally, I see a rational grain in both positions. Do regulars of gyms abuse training to failure? Definitely. But does this mean that it is useless? Definitely not. So let's see how you can get the most out of this controversial training session.

Failure can become a valuable tool in the bodybuilding training program, but for this you have to pay a high price. For example, the Spanish scientist Dr. Mikel Izquerdo found that work to failure in each approach dramatically increases the basal level of the catabolic hormone cortisol and inhibits the secretion of anabolic factors, for example, IGF-1. 1 From this it follows that bodybuilders who lead to absolute failure of each approach may face the danger of slowing down muscle growth in the long term.

Another scientific work was carried out at the Research Center for Sports Medicine in Pamplona, ​​Spain. The scientists found that training to failure increases the level of the nucleotide adenosine monophosphate (AMP) is much stronger than the work is not up to failure. 2 A high level of AMP indicates that the cell lacks energy, and this leads to a decrease in protein synthesis. The final conclusion: athletes should be aware that refusal depletes the body, and this fact can not be ignored. If you are going to train to failure, do it wisely and competently use such approaches in your training program.

Having finished with negative points, I can say that with proper use of the training to the point of failure really stimulates anabolism. According to Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D. and a certified specialist in functional and strength training, a significant increase in the concentration of lactic acid in muscles is crucial for stimulating muscle growth, as this leads to an increase in the secretion of intramuscular growth factor. 3 At the same time it was proved that training to failure increases the production of lactic acid more than work is not up to failure, and your hands can tell you about this much more convincingly than any research! 5

Another advantage of training to the point of failure is that at the end of the approach all the small muscle fibers get tired. If the load of small muscle fibers continues with the lifting of heavy weight, the nervous system is forced to actively use large rapidly contracting muscle fibers.

The only problem is that when you deplete the nervous system with the grid, you will come across "central fatigue". And when the nervous system is exhausted, all subsequent sets will be performed with much less intensity. For example, if in one approach you do 10 repetitions until the complete failure, then in the next you can only get to 6 repetitions. However, if you stop on 9 repetitions in the first approach, then, most likely, in the second you can perform 8 or 9 repetitions, and all because you have not exhausted the nervous system.

For this reason, I recommend working only until the last approach, regardless of the exercise. This is confirmed by the results of studies indicating that failure in the last approach of each exercise leads to a greater increase in muscle mass and strength. 4

Refusal is an objective thing, which we can not influence, but at our disposal there are techniques, for example, forced repetitions and drop-sets, by means of which it is possible to overcome even this feature. To perform forced repetitions, the trainee achieves failure, and then proceeds with the insurer to continue the approach. Drop-sets, on the other hand, can be performed without the help of a partner. You simply continue to exercise with less weight after reaching a failure with a higher load. In any case, your body is subjected to an even more intense load than with a simple failure, which is good and bad at the same time.

The use of forced repetitions and drop-sets is similar to training to failure: greater metabolic stress, more lactic acid, greater involvement of muscle fibers. However, both techniques provoke a much more pronounced central fatigue than classical training to failure. 5

In view of the above, and if you adhere to the principles of Joe Vader in your training, I recommend that you use these techniques only at the end of the training session aimed at stimulating muscle growth. And be sure to make sure that after training you will have enough time to recover. This implies both proper nutrition and a full sleep. Parties and booze do not fit very well with training to failure.

Wait for simple and understandable conclusions from all of the above to put them in your wallet and take them to the gym? I prepared them. Training to failure is too powerful a tool to use it wrong, so tell your friends about it and help create a more anabolic world!

  1. Training to failure can stimulate anabolism with rational use, and with too frequent use it will start catabolic processes.

train in moderation

Everything is well explained! Our mistake is that we often turn training into competitions.


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