Often you will read about training to ‘complete failure’ or going ‘beyond failure’ but many won’t actually know what is expected of them. A lot of athletes in the gym will start to struggle on a set and classify that as failure, it isn’t! This could potentially be one of the reasons for your lack of progress! Learn how to identify true failure and how to embrace it!
To define failure, it is the point during a working set where you can no longer move the weight for a full repetition. I mean ‘move’ not ‘it hurts’ to move the weight! This is the stage you have to reach when you are training to ‘failure’ as it were!
Why is reaching failure so important? If you are able to complete 10 repetitions with a certain weight and it is very challenging, but you don’t fail, this is telling you your muscles are up to the task of lifting that weight for 10 repetitions. So why would the body need to grow to cope with the stress if it can already deal with this level of resistance? By taking the muscle to failure and really fighting the weight when you do fail it shocks the muscle cells, and in turn stimulates muscle hypertrophy!
Going beyond failure means to hit a point where you can no longer move the weight and then have a training partner help you do another 3-5 forced repetitions. This goes one step beyond shocking your muscles, and is a method which has shown itself to really stimulate rapid rates of growth and strength! However, due to the intensity you should refrain from training to this extreme every week. Try every other week because this way you also maintain the ‘shock factor’ to attack your stubborn muscles!
Choosing the right time to go beyond failure is key! Compound exercises are the best ones to go beyond failure, simply because you are using more muscle fibres therefore you should stimulate more overall growth and size! Isolation movements can sometimes work, but it depends on how strict the form needs to be, because inevitably when you go beyond failure your form can suffer slightly. As a rule keeping your form perfect on isolation movements is more important than with compound movements because isolation movements are all about full contractions!
Try going beyond failure with at least 2 exercises per body part for the next week with a training partner. The DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) you experience will be very sore for sure, however you should notice within 4-6 weeks your strength and size increasing! As I said before, make sure you give your body time to recover properly as well because it is very strenuous on your muscles and connective tissues. If you ‘beat yourself up’ your mind to muscle connection will suffer badly which will really hold back your gains!
There you go, the benefits of going to and beyond failure! Be sure to take before photos because the increase in intensity will certainly help you make some great progress fast!