Refusal to refuse is different. In one case, rejection is a reliable and time-tested method of stimulating anabolic processes, in the other, it is a 100% way to slow down muscle growth. Find out how the different training options differ and the science behind it all!
I hear conflicting advice all the time. Explain is it good or bad to train to muscle failure?
In a professional environment, opinions on this issue are divided. From a physiological point of view, failure occurs in the positive repetition phase, when the muscles are unable to develop sufficient force to continue the forward movement of the projectile upward.
But opponents and apologists of training to failure most often express their arguments in non-physiological terms and concepts, as if this question touches the most intimate corners of their souls, wounded by high-intensity training. It doesn’t matter if a professional athlete argues with you or a simple amateur.
On the one hand, everyone knows the phrase “training to failure is the way to nowhere.” On the other hand, we know that many champions claim that working to the limit of human capabilities is the cornerstone of muscle growth.
Arnold Schwarzenegger summed it all up when he said the following: “The last 3 or 4 reps is what boosts muscle growth. The pain line separates champions from ordinary people. What most people lack is the willpower and determination to tell themselves that I will overcome the pain, no matter what it takes. ”
Personally, I see a grain of reason in both positions. Do gym goers overuse training to the point? 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 workout technique.
Rejection can be a valuable tool in a bodybuilder’s workout routine, but it comes at a high cost. For example, Spanish scientist Dr. Mikel Izcuerdo found that working to failure in each set dramatically raises the basal levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol and suppresses the secretion of anabolic factors like IGF-1.1
It follows that bodybuilders who drive every approach to absolute failure may run the risk of slowing muscle growth in the long run.
Another scientific work was carried out at the Sports Medicine Research Center in Pamplona, Spain. Scientists have found that training to failure raises the level of the nucleotide adenosine monophosphate (AMP) significantly more than working not to failure.
A high level of AMP indicates that the cell lacks energy, and this leads to a decrease in protein synthesis. Final takeaway: athletes should be aware that rejection is depleting and cannot be ignored.
If you are going to train to failure, do it wisely and use these approaches wisely in your training program.
When can opt out
With the negative points out of the way, I can tell you that when used correctly, training to failure really stimulates anabolism.
According to Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D. and board certified functional and strength training, a significant increase in muscle lactic acid concentration is critical to stimulating muscle growth as it increases the secretion of intramuscular growth factor.
That said, training to failure has been shown to increase lactic acid production more than working to failure, and your hands can tell you more convincingly than any research! 5
Another benefit of training to failure is that at the end of the set, all small muscle fibers fatigue. If, at the same time, the load of small muscle fibers by lifting heavy weights continues, the nervous system is forced to more actively engage large, rapidly twitching muscle fibers.
The only problem is that when you exhaust the nervous system with a set to failure, you will experience “central fatigue.” And when the nervous system is exhausted, all subsequent sets will be performed at a much lower intensity.
For example, if in one set you do 10 reps to complete failure, then in the next you can only get to 6 reps. However, if you stop at 9 reps in the first set, you will most likely be able to do 8 or 9 reps in the second, and all because you have not tired the nervous system.
For this reason, I recommend working to failure only on the latter set, regardless of the exercise. This is supported by research showing that failure to complete the last set of each exercise results in greater gains in muscle mass and strength.4
Refusal is an objective thing that we cannot influence, but we have techniques at our disposal, for example, forced repetitions and drop sets, by means of which we can overcome even this line. To perform forced reps, the trainee reaches failure and then continues with the help of a spotter.
Drop sets, on the other hand, can be performed without the help of a partner. You simply continue to do the exercise with less weight after reaching failure with a higher load. In any case, your body is subjected to even more intense stress than a simple rejection, which is both good and bad at the same time.
The benefits of forced reps and drop sets are similar to training to failure: more metabolic stress, more lactic acid, more muscle fiber recruitment. However, both techniques provoke much more pronounced central fatigue than classical training to failure.5
With that said, and if you are following the Joe Weider principles in your training, I recommend that you use these techniques only at the end of a training session aimed at stimulating muscle growth.
And make sure you have enough time to recover after training. This implies both proper nutrition and adequate sleep. Parties and booze don’t go well with training to failure.
Don’t fail with rejection
Are you waiting for simple and clear conclusions from all of the above to put them in your wallet and take with you to the gym? I prepared them. Training to failure is too powerful a tool to be misused, so tell your friends about it and help create a more anabolic world!
- Training to failure can stimulate anabolism if used wisely, and if used too often, it will trigger catabolic processes.
- Training to failure cannot be used in every set.
- If you practice training to failure, do it on the last set of the exercise, and only on muscle hypertrophy days.
- Individuals using high-intensity, “after-rejection” training techniques need extra rest. Give your body a chance to recover!