Training to failure...

Discussion in 'Fitness & Nutrition' started by timberwolf, Jan 30, 2006.

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  1. timberwolf

    timberwolf New Member

    Jan 30, 2004
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    Recent Question to Charles Poliquin on the MBN member's board.....

    'Working to failure'. Do you recommend it for long-term use? The reason I ask is that I like (love!) going to failure on each and every set, except warm ups of course. I find it an easy indicator of strength gains/losses from workout to workout, recording everything including time between sets. Is there 'room' for it in your 'Intensification/Accumulation' phases? Also, I've been lifting for about 3 months now, making consistent strength gains on this 'failure' system, up until 3 weeks ago.

    Now, each workout, I am weaker than the one before. I've changed little in my diet during this period except my protein powder, now being 'Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey' which has significantly fewer carbs but more protein than its predecessor; have also upped my EFA's (essential fatty acids).

    So, if anything at all, that I can really see here, is a lower intake of carbs.

    Could this be my problem, or have I been overtraining i.e. to failure for too long, or both? It's slowly driving me crazy trying to figure it out..please help!!!

    And here's Charles Poliquin's answer...

    Let's define «absolute muscle failure » The first step in defining this term is to review the fact that there are three types of muscle contraction: concentric, isometric and eccentric.

    When a muscle shortens, it is called a concentric contraction, like when you raise the barbell in curls by shortening the elbow flexors.

    When you lower the same barbell, your muscle lengthens - perform an eccentric contraction.

    Finally, a muscle can also contract without changing the joint angle or also known as an - isometric or static contraction, like in the case of a gymnast holding an iron cross.

    Isometric contractions are normally 10-15% stronger than concentric contraction, while eccentric contractions are as much as 75% stronger than concentric contraction, with the average between 25 to 40% greater than the concentric contraction.

    In other words, if you can curl 100 lbs, you can hold 110-115 lbs at pretty much any angle in the range of motion, and can lower safely 125 to 140 lbs.

    There are three types of muscular failure, one associated with each type of contraction One is known to fail concentrically when one cannot raise the weight, to fail statically when one is not able hold the weight at any given point in the range of motion, and to fail eccentrically when to not able to lower the weight under control at a given tempo.

    When one reaches failure on all three types of muscular contraction, he is known to have reached «absolute muscle failure».

    Rarely you will find athletes who train to this level of failure - simply because it's masochism has fallen out of grace.

    Since there are three types of contraction, there are three degrees of failure.

    You can train to just concentric and/or static and/or eccentric failure. Typically, the higher the degree of failure (closer you approach total eccentric failure), the less you can control the weight, and hence common sense will tell you that exercise performance is not being safe anymore.

    Your muscles simply cannot generate enough strength to control the weight, thus you are predisposing yourself to injury.

    To answer your question, is it absolutely necessary to achieve muscle growth? Certainly not, just look at the hypertrophy of powerlifters and Olympic lifters, they rarely if ever train to failure and yet achieve significant hypertrophy in the trained muscles.

    The only people that I have seen make significant gains on «absolute failure» had the following in common:

    1. They were amphetamines user like Ritalin who disguised their animalistic training drive by claiming it is was instead influenced by the readings of German philosophers and/or listening to Wagnerian music prior to training, Please don't piss on my leg and tell me its raining.

    2. They were severe exogeneous androgen users i.e. 2,000 mg to 3000 mg of various testoterones a week, and 100-300 mg of orals a day (i.e. Dianabol and Anadrol)

    3. The obsession with making progress in training loads leads to improper technique. They all ended up tearing one or more of the following: biceps, pec, lat and quadriceps. One Mr. Olympia finalist, tore a biceps training in this fashion while loosely curling an 85 lbs on a Scott bench, while a more reasonable weight in good form would have been 65 lbs.

    4. They all suffered from adrenal exhaustion and paranoia, probably because of the abuse of 1.

    Training to absolute muscle failure is a concept that has been around for about the last 25 years or so. Mike Mentzer and Nautilus machine inventor Arthur Jones were the initial proponents of this training methodology.

    It gained rapid popularity because it went strongly against the grain of the training methodology popular in the bodybuilding meccas of Northern Europe and Southern California.

    In the early seventies, we were told to do 20 sets a bodypart, two workouts a week per bodypart, and only take Sundays off .

    So obviously doing only 1-2 sets per bodypart 2-3 per week in full body workouts was considered either heresy or something valid to look at.

    Since then, many training systems have been used. In my opinion, training to absolute failure should be used vary sparingly, maybe once every 8 weeks should suffice, and only after a very progressive warm-ups.

    Systematic variations in both intensity and volume, not training to absolute failure are the keys to muscle growth.

    In certain training methods like German Volume Training, one does not need to reach concentric failure on every set. Unless specifically mentioned you can assume that every set prescribed is a work set. Therefore you should reach concentric muscle failure.

    However I also believe that many trainees fail to achieve their training goals by exhausting their neuro-endocrine.

    You know the type of trainee that does a 6 seconds isometric contraction after failing to complete the concentric range.

    A principle is always for long-term use. Hence the name principle.

    Yes, you are overtraining.
  2. JAFAR

    JAFAR FPS whore OT Supporter

    Sep 5, 2004
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    Seattle, WA

    :rofl: @ "Yes, you are overtraining."
  3. fauxdiophile

    fauxdiophile Active Member OT Supporter

    Oct 11, 2002
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    Bay Area
    good read, i've had people tell me all the time that it's the only way to train. i like going to concentric failure sometimes, but if i did that every day i'd be dead.
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