We’re all familiar with the advice of doing a set ‘to failure.’ There’s nothing seriously wrong with that advice. The principle is that if you push yourself until you can’t perform another rep it will ensure you gave 100% effort to the exercise.
But achieving 100% effort will always be unprovable. How can you know it was not possible for you to do 1% or 2% more if you had done something different? Better breathing. Better grip. Better concentration. Better form. Maybe your 100% was really 84% of what your were capable of. If you’re overtraining your 100% effort might be 47% of your ability.
In fact, we did some testing on different ways to perform sets. In the free report, Workout Variations Revealed, we show how timed sets with a countdown actually worked better at squeezing maximum intensity out of weightlifting trainees than one set to failure did.
But Here’s The Big Issue
The reality is, the objective definition of a productive exercise is that it forced your target muscle(s) to perform at a new peak output. That’s what progressive overload is all about. Progress.
There is no point doing regressive overload. Regressive overload will not trigger new muscle growth. Sitting in the dark never triggers a deeper suntan. Lifting below your peak capacity does not trigger new muscle growth.
Let’s say the last time you did your bench press you lifted 150 lbs 9 times in 30 seconds. That means you lifted 1,350 total lbs in a half minute, which is a rate of 2,700 lbs per minute. That’s a clear and objective measurement of your intensity.
Your ONLY goal on your next bench press workout is to exceed 1,350 lbs in 30 seconds. It doesn’t matter if you go to failure or not. It doesn’t matter if you “feel” strong or not. It doesn’t matter if it leaves you “pumped” or not. It doesn’t matter if you are sore the next day or not. What matters is whether you progress past 1,350 lbs in 30 seconds. Or not.
One Set To Success
When you make these simple measurements of your performance you can engineer exact goals for your next workout. You know going in to the gym what one set to success will need to be. For every exercise you perform you have an objective goal that you can have complete confidence in.
Over time, this is a foolproof way to make progress at the limits of your ability. The numbers don’t lie.