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Should I Train To Failure?

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By: Jon Cardozo

If you've spent any time in bodybuilding forums or talking with fellow trainees at the gym, you've probably heard the term training to failure. Unfortunately, many have thrown around this term without really knowing its meaning. Before you begin your training routine, it's important to understand these terms and how you should apply them to your workout.

So, what exactly is training to failure? To put it in simple terms, training to failure means lifting weights with a particular muscle until it can not physically lift anymore. I have seen one muscle building guru tell his readers that training to failure is essential for building muscle. One trainer's testimonial explained how he reached a plateau in his training. When he's switched his training styles he began to make consistent progress again. His new focus was on lifting to the point just before failure (which may take you some practice to find), as well as making gradual but consistent progress week after week. As you can tell, the subject is controversial, and you'll have to find your own answers to the question. One trainer explained it this way.

Vincent Delmonte, who went through an incredible transformation himself, tries to distinguish between momentary failure and absolute failure. Training to momentary failure means that you perform enough reps for your muscle to fail before moving on to another muscle group. Absolute failure, in contrast, would mean that your entire body is completely wiped out from exhaustion. This kind of training should be considered overkill as it puts a heavy strain on your nervous system and immune system, not just your muscles. These bodies systems take longer to recover, so you may require additional rest even if your muscles feel ready to train again. You can probably see by now how this could cause great delays in your training programs, not to mention it can put you at risk for serious injuries or illness.

Vince illustrates his point with an example. He tells us that sprinters develop significant mass in their legs, but they do not accomplish this by training to complete failure. I can't imagine seeing sprinters run until they collapsed from exhaustion? I think you would agree that this is not the wisest approach.

You should realize that training to failure may not be the most accurate way to measure your results. If you simply train each muscle until it fails, you don't have a reliable benchmark to tell you if you are moving in the right direction. After all, your stamina can change from one day to the next day to a variety of factors. A better approach would be to keep precise records on how much weight you lift, how many repetitions you perform, and how long your workout lasts. This is where a step by step, comprehensive program can take you a long way towards achieving your objectives.

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