There are a billion and one ways to train. You have crossfit, circuit style, cardio, group classes, lifting, at home, in a gym, in a studio, I could keep on going. There is a purpose and reason for each one of these that makes it better for some people and more harmful to others.
If you’re fighting an injury, you probably shouldn’t be doing crossfit because there’s a ton of full body movements where you can hurt that body part over again.
If you’re trying to run a marathon, you shouldn’t be doing hours of lifting because you want to primarily run with some lifting infused throughout.
If you’re trying to step on stage as a physique athlete, you are going to be primarily doing strict lifting sessions and some cardio.
If you just want to look and feel good and be healthy, I would suggest primarily focusing on resistance training and supplementing with areas that you enjoy (yoga, classes, bike rides, etc.)
Now, within each of these styles of training are going to be varying difficulties. Whether you’re a beginner, immediate, or an advanced client you will have different protocols. As a coach, this is something I pay close attention to, because if I program for an advanced lifter but this is the first time you’re stepping in a gym in your entire life or multiple years, I am setting you up for failure and you probably won’t ever go back.
Similarly, this is how I view the idea of training to failure.
It sounds easy to anyone, like you’ll just go until you can’t do any more reps, right?
Yes. That is how you train to failure, however, I probably wouldn’t program this for someone just getting into weight lifting or starting as a client under me. If you’re new to the gym you want to focus on
- Nailing down your form
- Feeling comfortable in the weight room
- Picking weights that aren’t super easy but challenge you
The last thing I want you to focus on is taking a set to failure. If you get to the end and you can’t get through all of the reps, cool. But until you understand the weights you’re choosing, how to move your body correctly, and just feel comfortable stepping in the gym, I won’t have you training like that.
INTERMEDIATE / ADVANCED:
But let’s take it to the other side. If you’re someone who’s been lifting for a while, you feel comfortable in the gym, and you have specific physique or strength goals, training to failure can actually be super beneficial! I actually use this method in my own training and get pretty close to failure during each set.
The closer to failure your body goes, the more it has to overcome to rebuild and grow stronger to handle those weights / reps / sets. So, as we take our sets closer to failure, or to failure, we don’t need as many reps/sets to get in an efficient workout.
Instead of doing 4 sets of 12, you could actually do 2 sets of failure using weights that get you around 5-10 reps. You get more bang for your buck when you force your body to overcome this stimulus.
This does not mean that you won’t be in the gym as long though. You should be using weights that are HEAVY. You should not be using the same weights you use for a set of 12 as you are for a set of failure, unless it was specifically programmed that way. Instead, you should be increasing your weight to get to failure sooner.
When you do take a set to failure, you’re going to realize pretty quickly how much time you need to recover between sets to be able to train again. So where you could take 45 seconds rest between your sets of 12, here you are taking 2 minutes in between each set to prep your body for another grueling one.
**I will also add in a note here, that you do not need to train to actual failure each time and you can leave just a few reps in the tank, however, most people aren’t very good at finding this point without first training to failure to see. What happens when I tell clients to take a set to failure, they will come back and tell me they got in 15-20 reps. Which is how much our minds play a role in lifting.
If you don’t believe that you can get in another rep, your body will match that energy and think the load is really heavy. But if you don’t have an end number, your body will naturally try to keep going.
So when clients tell me that, I tell them they clearly aren’t using the right amount of weight for their workouts!
It’s actually really interesting how much we underestimate our ability to get another rep in. It’s like we hear this magical set range of 10-12 for hypertrophy (growing muscles) and we do only sets of that. When that is not the case for everyone every time they train. It is going to vary and why we can use failure training to enhance the workouts.
You don’t need to always take your body to failure and it is not some magical way to lose weight, but it can be helpful every once in a while to challenge your body! I would say a general rule of thumb is choose weights that help you get 1-2 reps left in your tank before the set is over!
There is no right or wrong way to train, including if you are training to failure or not, but if you are looking for something to spice up your workouts with, I’d check it out!
If you are interested in learning more about how to train your body effectively and get the most bang for your buck, check out here to see how I can help you reach sustainable and lasting results!