[VIDEO] Training to Failure : The Why and When

Fitness & Training Tips
By Dan

About Dan

I’m one of our resident Exercise Physiologists, and also an accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer and Level 1 Weightlifting Instructor. Outside of the gym, I tend to go in search of good food and great coffee. And yes, Dan’s Shoulder Stretch is mine.


Alright guys, welcome to a quick two minute segment on Training to Failure. Is it good? Is it bad? When do we use it? When do we not? So very quickly I’ve listed down a couple of things that you come across in the gym; strength work, muscle gain, some speed or some sprint work, which a few of you guys have seen, and of course our aerobic work, our steady movement and breathing type stuff. When do we train these things to failure? For example, we can’t do anymore, we’re stuffed, we’re on the floor, we’re tired, and we cannot maintain our output on what we’re doing.


We’re going to start with strength, just because it’s the shortest and hardest and fastest. Very rarely do we ever go to failure on strength. I put down here every two or three months. The reason is, if you train strength and you go failure too often, the recovery takes too long. Then, inadvertently, you cannot lift heavy in the next session or in the next two to three sessions. It takes too much out of you to go too heavy too often. We want to go hard, but we want to leave one rep in the tank. That especially goes for those guys on bench press, they tend to love to go to failure on this. Leave one in the tank for strength work.


For muscle gain, a little bit different. For muscle gain we’re looking to put on some good quality muscle and hopefully burn some fat in the process. This one is fairly relevant to everyone, males who want to gain weight, females who want to lose weight but tone up, it’s the exact same thing with wanting to gain some muscle. With this one, you do want to go to failure occasionally. We’re looking at every third to fourth session. So let’s say we’re training legs with squats and you train that on a Monday. You might train that again on a Thursday, so every fourth session which means that every two weeks we might try to go to a pretty close to fail sort of section there. Typically with the smaller muscle groups, you can actually go there more frequently. That is a big stimulus for muscle gain.


For the speed and sprint work, you do want to go to maximal effort. Not 90% effort, maximum effort. Typically it is so short, between 10 to 20 seconds, that you can go in there and you can still recover within 24 to 48 hours. You cannot train speed and power slowly. You must go into that maximal zone. To go too slowly on that defeats the purpose of ever doing the sprint work.


Finally, a lot of you come across the aerobic stuff. Think of this as your huff and puff work but importantly not going to failure. The reason is with aerobic is you want it to be steady and sustainable. Imagine a marathon runner running two hours, they are all staying steady and sustainable. They hold the same pace for 42 kilometres and do not change. Whereas if you go too hard too early on aerobic, you’ll start to use some lactic acid, everybody knows what that feels like. As soon as you incorporate lactic acid into your aerobic work, the muscles start to fail, breathing becomes labored and heavy, and you can no longer be steady and sustainable.


That’s just a quick overview, hopefully it brings a few questions into the gym. If you have anything to ask us, by all means when we are on the floor, come and have a chat to us.