Training Hacks: Should You Train to Complete Failure Each Set for Muscle Growth?

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Training Hacks:

Mike Mentzer, Casey Viator, Dorian Yates, Elliot Darden are some of the most intellectual teachers in the field of bodybuilding that revolutionized the sport of bodybuilding. The typical training theory that they all held was that they believed in training to complete muscular failure each set. In the documentary Pumping Iron, Arnold said in the video that muscle growth does not occur until after your muscle has reached complete muscular failure. It seems logical that training to failure each set is the optimal way to recruit maximum amount of muscle fibers. Training to muscular failure has been proposed to lead to greater gains in muscular strength and size because of greater neural drive when training at a closer proximity to muscular failure, implying that more motor units may be recruited. While failure can be a valuable tool in a bodybuilder’s training routine, there is some evidence to indicate that it comes with a significant cost. Previous research has found that training to failure every set significantly increased resting levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol and suppressed anabolic growth factors such as IGF-1. This study demonstrated that taking every set to failure could lead to overtraining and a catabolic response. This study may indicate that bodybuilders who take every set to absolute failure may put themselves at risk of impeding long-term growth.

Researchers recently just published a study that may cause controversy among bodybuilders and scholars. Twenty-eight males completed a 4-week familiarization period and were three groups:
• Non-failure Rapid Contraction, Slow Eccentric (rapid concentric, 2 s eccentric). They lifted up the weight explosively and lowered the weight in 2 seconds, emphasizing the eccentric portion.
• Non-failure Rapid-Contraction and Lowering (rapid concentric, rapid eccentric). They lifted up the weight explosively and lowered the weight the weight explosively.
• Failure control (C, 2 s concentric, 2 s eccentric). Exercise is taken to complete muscle failure.

This study analyzed the time course of recovery following two resistance exercise protocols differing in level of effort: maximum (to failure) vs. half-maximum number of repetitions per set. Researchers had a group of volunteers perform three sets of bench presses and squats. Nine males performed either:

-Three sets of 8 repetitions to failure with their 80% 1RM load, and

– Three sets of 4 repetitions with the same intensity (80% 1RM) but not to failure.

Training Hacks:Training till failure

Training to failure resulted in greater neuromuscular fatigue and longer muscle recuperation than the not training to failure group for 48 hours. This indicates it takes a longer time for full muscle recovery following intense resistance exercise that is taken to failure compared with a similar workout where sets are terminated before failure is reached.In conclusion, considering the evidence regarding untrained subjects, it seems plausible to suggest that high intensity-resistance training to failure is not necessary for maximal increases in strength and hypertrophy. On the other hand, repetitions to failure seem essential for increases in muscle strength and mass of similar magnitude to high intensity-resistance training when performing low intensity-resistance training. When it comes to trained individuals, evidence shows greater increases in muscle strength after high intensity-resistance training performed to muscle failure compared to no failure. Similarly, to untrained individuals, muscle failure at low-intensity resistance training might be an attractive strategy for maximizing muscle hypertrophy. However, it does not promote maximal increases in muscle strength when performed by strength trained individuals. You probably should not train to failure every set, if you do incorporate training to failure than you are going to need longer recuperation between sets.

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