Quackerz

Training to failure

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Is it necessary to go beyond, do dropsets etc.? Or can I simply head into the gym, hit my three sets or max set to failure and get out with the same results? Trying to keep my training short ATM, really don't have time for all these extra sets I may not even need. 

@Pscarb

@I'mNotAPervert!

@Ultrasonic

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can you train not as hard and get the same results? well no not really

is it necessary to go beyond failure to get results...no it isn't

now before anyone comes back with "its all down to recovery" or " depends on the gear you are on" blah blah re-read the question and answer it for what it is :)

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On gear I have no idea.

Natty I'd say the prevailing view in the evidence based community is that training volume is main factor for optimising hypertrophy. This doesn't have to involve reaching failure. (Not the answer you want I know but it's what I've got!)

For me personally I've also found that higher volume works best, but obviously others have a different experience. For example I expect @I'mNotAPervert! will give you more the answer you're hoping for ;).

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3 hours ago, Pscarb said:

can you train not as hard and get the same results? well no not really

is it necessary to go beyond failure to get results...no it isn't

now before anyone comes back with "its all down to recovery" or " depends on the gear you are on" blah blah re-read the question and answer it for what it is :)

How would you personally program say a pressing exercise for going beyond failure if you had limited time? Trying to figure out the best approach for myself to fit in what I need into a half hour session. Any ideas would be welcome. 

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I personally think hitting true failure can actually be counter productive - until maybe the final week before a deload etc.

I almost always keep a rep or so in the tank, and each week beat it.. Toward the end of a training block, it's inevitable I'll hit failure.. But then on the new block, I'll rinse and repeat.

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A different option to consider for time efficiency would be to focus on metabolite training - so multiple higher rep sets with short rest periods. If you haven't done this sort of training for a while it might give you some reasonable growth in the short term. Just an option to consider.

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All about balancing intensity with volume. I say "intensity" because intensity = percentage of 1RM, and given that you train with your true 6-8RM for a set of 6-8 on a low volume routine vs maybe your 10-12RM on a regular 3 x 6-8 to sub-failure, it's technically higher intensity. A simpler way of describing it would be, the lower the volume, the harder you have to train to make it count, i.e. higher RPE. 1 workset taken to absolute failure and beyond (à la Dorian Yates) will produce results, just like 6-8 straight sets with short rests with the last set taken to sub-failure (à la Serge Nubret and Larry Scott) will also produce results. Both on either end of the extreme, yet both approaches have produced some of the greatest physiques of all time. 

For low volume, watch Dorian Yates training videos and you'll get the idea as to how to approach them. As many warmup sets as needed, increasing the weights on each if more than one is used. Then one set to all-out failure, and finish that up with an intensity technique - in most of his videos Dorian uses forced reps, but you can also use dropsets, rest-pause, cheat reps, partials or even same-muscle supersets (for example, bench press to failure and superset with dumbbell flyes, or skullcrushers and then CGBP with the same weight. With this style of training I typically perform 7 exercises per workout and I'm in and out of the gym in around 45 minutes. Even less than that if I'm on a bro-split as there's not really a need for warmup sets by the time you get to the isolations to finish a muscle off.

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49 minutes ago, I'mNotAPervert! said:

All about balancing intensity with volume. I say "intensity" because intensity = percentage of 1RM, and given that you train with your true 6-8RM for a set of 6-8 on a low volume routine vs maybe your 10-12RM on a regular 3 x 6-8 to sub-failure, it's technically higher intensity. A simpler way of describing it would be, the lower the volume, the harder you have to train to make it count, i.e. higher RPE. 1 workset taken to absolute failure and beyond (à la Dorian Yates) will produce results, just like 6-8 straight sets with short rests with the last set taken to sub-failure (à la Serge Nubret and Larry Scott) will also produce results. Both on either end of the extreme, yet both approaches have produced some of the greatest physiques of all time. 

For low volume, watch Dorian Yates training videos and you'll get the idea as to how to approach them. As many warmup sets as needed, increasing the weights on each if more than one is used. Then one set to all-out failure, and finish that up with an intensity technique - in most of his videos Dorian uses forced reps, but you can also use dropsets, rest-pause, cheat reps, partials or even same-muscle supersets (for example, bench press to failure and superset with dumbbell flyes, or skullcrushers and then CGBP with the same weight. With this style of training I typically perform 7 exercises per workout and I'm in and out of the gym in around 45 minutes. Even less than that if I'm on a bro-split as there's not really a need for warmup sets by the time you get to the isolations to finish a muscle off.

Cheers mate, this is very helpful. :thumbup1:

 

2 hours ago, Ultrasonic said:

A different option to consider for time efficiency would be to focus on metabolite training - so multiple higher rep sets with short rest periods. If you haven't done this sort of training for a while it might give you some reasonable growth in the short term. Just an option to consider.

Similar kind of approach as GVT with shorter rest? 

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17 minutes ago, Quackerz said:

Similar kind of approach as GVT with shorter rest? 

Probably higher rep than that, maybe more like 20 rep sets with 30s rests? Essentially whatever works best to cause significant lactic acid build up / burn. I've been listening to a lot of interviews with Mike Israetel recently and he frequently mentions occasional metabolite training being able to produce growth, which was why I suggested it. I haven't ever seriously done this myself, mostly as I'll be honest I've always been pretty sceptical about this sort of thing. Mike seems to really know what he's talking about on most things though.

FWIW the following video happened to come out on a YouTube channel I vaguely follow today. The title is overselling the content somewhat, but he does talk about the usefulness of more or less what you were proposing.

 

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3 hours ago, Ultrasonic said:

Probably higher rep than that, maybe more like 20 rep sets with 30s rests? Essentially whatever works best to cause significant lactic acid build up / burn. I've been listening to a lot of interviews with Mike Israetel recently and he frequently mentions occasional metabolite training being able to produce growth, which was why I suggested it. I haven't ever seriously done this myself, mostly as I'll be honest I've always been pretty sceptical about this sort of thing. Mike seems to really know what he's talking about on most things though.

Also recently been paying attention to what this guy has to say, speaks a lot of sense.

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On 01/05/2017 at 2:55 PM, Ultrasonic said:

On gear I have no idea.

Natty I'd say the prevailing view in the evidence based community is that training volume is main factor for optimising hypertrophy. This doesn't have to involve reaching failure. (Not the answer you want I know but it's what I've got!)

For me personally I've also found that higher volume works best, but obviously others have a different experience. For example I expect @I'mNotAPervert! will give you more the answer you're hoping for ;).

I though frequency was the main factor for natural training?  And as you up the frequency the volume inevitably comes down.

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4 minutes ago, Sphinkter said:

I though frequency was the main factor for natural training?  And as you up the frequency the volume inevitably comes down.

No, volume per body part per week (and progression of this) is I would say thought to be the single most important factor. Higher frequency is a way to INCREASE this volume though, and personally I'd train everything at least twice per week as this is probably better.

 

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2 hours ago, Ultrasonic said:

No, volume per body part per week (and progression of this) is I would say thought to be the single most important factor. Higher frequency is a way to INCREASE this volume though, and personally I'd train everything at least twice per week as this is probably better.

 

What if you've got two different splits, one hits, say shoulders, once a week and the other hits them twice.  Total number of sets for the week being equal.  Surely the one hitting them twice is going to be better for growth because of the equal volume but elevated MPS twice rather than just once - which afaik is only elevated for 36hrs or something after training.

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28 minutes ago, Sphinkter said:

What if you've got two different splits, one hits, say shoulders, once a week and the other hits them twice.  Total number of sets for the week being equal.  Surely the one hitting them twice is going to be better for growth because of the equal volume but elevated MPS twice rather than just once - which afaik is only elevated for 36hrs or something after training.

Probably, yes, and it's the way I'd do it. (Although it isn't absolute fact that the second approach is better.)

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Here's a thing to consider. When you train to failure on a set, it's not just at all the case that your muscle fibers all work perfectly until the final rep and then suddenly all fail. Rather what happens is the fibers start failing earlier in the set in groups or 'units', then the CNS recruits new fiber units until those start to fail too and there are no strong enough units left able to lift the load. So well before you hit failure (we'll call this 'total failure'), you have already caused many fibers to fail - unless we are talking about a very heavy/extremely close to one rep max load of course.

Now the next question is, although more total fibers fail when you go to total failure in one set than compared to one set if you don't, and also that by going to total failure on one set you are more compromised and can do fewer reps on following sets than if you don't quite go to failure, would you gain more total fiber failure by a) going to total failure on three sets, or b ) by doing four sets at not quite to failure?

Arguably, by cutting short just shy of failure but then doing a little more volume with an extra set you would likely bring more individual fibers and fiber units to failure. This isn't absolutely proven to be the case, and some people like those who love HIT will passionately argue against it, but it does appear to be the best supported argument by science at the moment and is probably the best approach for most people even if you can always find an exception.

The next question though is does this apply to all loads and rep ranges? The answer here, again if you go by the science, seems to be a pretty clear 'no'.

Putting together data from a few different studies the evidence suggests that if you train higher rep (sets above 12-15 or so) then you'd do best to always or almost always go to failure on every set. With lower rep heavier loads however you might well do better concluding your set a rep or two shy of total failure but doing a little more volume.

So what about 'beyond failure' techniques like forced reps, negative only reps, assisted reps and drop sets? Any use at all, or just ego training?

Well, there's no direct evidence to suggest that, under normal circumstances, these things will increase gains beyond normal training if normal training is already working your muscles sufficiently. Some will even argue that doing these things regularly is actually counter productive in that beyond a certain amount of muscle damage and fatigue all you are doing is increasing the need to recover and using up extra protein to repair the muscle. There is probably some validity here as it's well established in studies that no matter how much damage a muscle takes in one go, it's ability to actually adapt and grow bigger is limited to a maximum value (related to something called the fractional synthetic rate), so no matter how much more you try and stimulate it, a muscle simply doesn't have the cellular machinery to add more protein to it's fibers and just has to use more and more resources to repair damage, which may even compromise the adaptive ability if things like amino acid supply and energy are in short supply.

Now note I said 'under normal circumstances', because there may still be a couple of circumstances where beyond failure training can still give a better result. The first is with the use of steroids, which give that cellular machinery that adds protein to skeletal muscle tissue a massive increase in ability to add and hold proteins. Steroids are both anabolic and anticatabolic, and also help to bolster recovery. The second circumstance, which is more available to everyone no matter their stance on PEDs, is in periodized training, and during a brief and planned period of intentional overreaching. There is some evidence, and plenty of anecdotal support, to suggest that cycling your training intensity and gradually building to to brief one-three week periods of failure and beyond training every 2-3 months (both figures depending on your own recovery ability and ability to do justice to that kind of intensity), then following with a week or two of deloading and then gradually building back up again, might well give you longer term continual gains than just constantly maintaining a flat intensity all the way.

The idea here is that a periodic blast of very high intensity, while unsustainable and counter productive if used for long periods, will, in the short term, force a bunch of temporary adaptations (increased mitochondrial density, increased oxidative and lactate capacity etc) that will then rocket you through for the first few weeks of back to normal training before those temporary adaptations disappear again. If however you've periodized your training right though, just as they disappear you are building back to another high intensity period to bring them back again.

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22 hours ago, dtlv said:

Putting together data from a few different studies the evidence suggests that if you train higher rep (sets above 12-15 or so) then you'd do best to always or almost always go to failure on every set. With lower rep heavier loads however you might well do better concluding your set a rep or two shy of total failure but doing a little more volume.

 

I don't go to failure on all my high rep sets, but I tend to agree, high rep sets are more likely to be done to failure than 6-8 sets, in my case.

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On 13/05/2017 at 0:30 AM, dtlv said:

Here's a thing to consider. When you train to failure on a set, it's not just at all the case that your muscle fibers all work perfectly until the final rep and then suddenly all fail. Rather what happens is the fibers start failing earlier in the set in groups or 'units', then the CNS recruits new fiber units until those start to fail too and there are no strong enough units left able to lift the load. So well before you hit failure (we'll call this 'total failure'), you have already caused many fibers to fail - unless we are talking about a very heavy/extremely close to one rep max load of course.

Now the next question is, although more total fibers fail when you go to total failure in one set than compared to one set if you don't, and also that by going to total failure on one set you are more compromised and can do fewer reps on following sets than if you don't quite go to failure, would you gain more total fiber failure by a) going to total failure on three sets, or b ) by doing four sets at not quite to failure?

Arguably, by cutting short just shy of failure but then doing a little more volume with an extra set you would likely bring more individual fibers and fiber units to failure. This isn't absolutely proven to be the case, and some people like those who love HIT will passionately argue against it, but it does appear to be the best supported argument by science at the moment and is probably the best approach for most people even if you can always find an exception.

The next question though is does this apply to all loads and rep ranges? The answer here, again if you go by the science, seems to be a pretty clear 'no'.

Putting together data from a few different studies the evidence suggests that if you train higher rep (sets above 12-15 or so) then you'd do best to always or almost always go to failure on every set. With lower rep heavier loads however you might well do better concluding your set a rep or two shy of total failure but doing a little more volume.

So what about 'beyond failure' techniques like forced reps, negative only reps, assisted reps and drop sets? Any use at all, or just ego training?

Well, there's no direct evidence to suggest that, under normal circumstances, these things will increase gains beyond normal training if normal training is already working your muscles sufficiently. Some will even argue that doing these things regularly is actually counter productive in that beyond a certain amount of muscle damage and fatigue all you are doing is increasing the need to recover and using up extra protein to repair the muscle. There is probably some validity here as it's well established in studies that no matter how much damage a muscle takes in one go, it's ability to actually adapt and grow bigger is limited to a maximum value (related to something called the fractional synthetic rate), so no matter how much more you try and stimulate it, a muscle simply doesn't have the cellular machinery to add more protein to it's fibers and just has to use more and more resources to repair damage, which may even compromise the adaptive ability if things like amino acid supply and energy are in short supply.

Now note I said 'under normal circumstances', because there may still be a couple of circumstances where beyond failure training can still give a better result. The first is with the use of steroids, which give that cellular machinery that adds protein to skeletal muscle tissue a massive increase in ability to add and hold proteins. Steroids are both anabolic and anticatabolic, and also help to bolster recovery. The second circumstance, which is more available to everyone no matter their stance on PEDs, is in periodized training, and during a brief and planned period of intentional overreaching. There is some evidence, and plenty of anecdotal support, to suggest that cycling your training intensity and gradually building to to brief one-three week periods of failure and beyond training every 2-3 months (both figures depending on your own recovery ability and ability to do justice to that kind of intensity), then following with a week or two of deloading and then gradually building back up again, might well give you longer term continual gains than just constantly maintaining a flat intensity all the way.

The idea here is that a periodic blast of very high intensity, while unsustainable and counter productive if used for long periods, will, in the short term, force a bunch of temporary adaptations (increased mitochondrial density, increased oxidative and lactate capacity etc) that will then rocket you through for the first few weeks of back to normal training before those temporary adaptations disappear again. If however you've periodized your training right though, just as they disappear you are building back to another high intensity period to bring them back again.

Good post mate, informative as always. 

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If youre stuck on time to go to failure i like to pre exhaust and supset three different exercises with pyramiding etc. Can be in and out in 25 minutes and feel absolutely blasted. However i normally have a hour or so and like to take my time 95% of the time but those quick sessions can be good too.

 

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