Tag Archives | failure

How About Doing One Set To Success?

One Set To SuccessWe’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.



Don’t “Go To Low-Intensity Failure”

Static Contraction = True High Intensity

Static Contraction = True High Intensity

I’m sure many millions of words have been written in the world of fitness and strength training on the role of “failure” when performing an exercise. For the 2% of you who have never heard the term, “failure” refers to lifting a weight repeatedly until you cannot continue. For example, when doing a conventional bench press you might perform 11 complete reps and then discover that you cannot complete the twelfth rep no matter how hard you exert yourself – you’ve ‘lifted to failure”.

The key principle, we are all told, is that by continuing until failure you have guaranteed the targeted muscle has engaged all its fibers and therefore you have stimulated maximum growth. Sound good?

But there is a problem.

The fact is you can go to failure with any weight. Let’s use the simple biceps curl as an example. You could pick up a 1-pound dumbbell and start doing reps with it until you get to 200, 300 or whatever and then your arm would get very tired and you’d have to stop because you literally could not perform one more rep. You’ve exercised your biceps to complete failure. So will that ensure huge biceps?

Well, let me ask you this. When a marathon runner continues running for 26.2 miles or an ultra-marathon runner goes for 100 miles, do they develop massive thighs? Answer: no.

The runner with the massive thighs is the sprinter who goes all out (to failure, in a way) in 9 seconds. And when I say ‘failure’ here I mean the sprinter is slowing down after 9 seconds.

Intensity Is The Only Meaningful Measure

The real measure that matters in the realm of strength training and muscle-building is the intensity of the lifting. Intensity, in the realm of science, is usually the amount of a thing divided by time. Not just how many pounds on the bar or how many reps or how many sets of reps, but the TIME it took to do all that. So performing five reps with 100 pounds in 25 seconds is not as intense as performing those same reps in 12 seconds. This is something any skeptic can test in the gym. Test me…you’ll see I’m right about this.

I’ve done a lot of intensity measuring in the last 15 years and I can tell you this with certainty – Intensity trumps every other parameter. High intensity is more important than total weight, more important than longer duration and more important than going to “failure”. You can only increase your intensity of lifting by being stronger; by having bigger, stronger muscles.

This is why all rational roads of strength training ultimately must lead to Static Contraction training. SCT embodies the highest possible intensity of muscular overload. My recent studies are teaching us even more about this. We can measure one second or less of peak muscular output and when the duration is reduced to so little time the weights are staggering and new muscle growth is stimulated.

What If?

And that’s a key point. If humans performed 2 or 3 seconds of high intensity muscle contraction but did not get stronger or otherwise trigger an adaptive response, all this high intensity stuff would be moot. For example, if it were a biological law that a human must exert a muscle or muscle group for 60 seconds of intense overload before an adaptive response was triggered, then every workout program would have to be engineered to accommodate that law or else it would fail to build strength. But no such biological law exists! Thus, the 9-second sprinter grows big leg muscles. And the 5-second SCT trainee does too!

Intensity is the answer… are you really getting enough?