Failure Training

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Training to Muscle Failure

The way I operationalize failure training "in my workouts" involves three levels.

The first is positive or concentric failure, e.g., the point at which I can no longer lift the weight (move it in a concentric fashion) in good form (without physical contortions, increased acceleration, cheating or style breaks and without assistance).

The next level I've always called static failure. This level reflects the point at which I can no longer hold the weight in a static position (it begins to descend or move eccentricity and I cannot stop it).

Lastly, I use eccentric or negative failure...the point at which I can no longer lower that same weight in a controlled (4-6 second negative) fashion (it is out of my control).

These are listed in what I consider to be the order of inroad each makes into recovery ability (positive to static to negative). I think of this as a continuum and would expect that forced reps, depending on the use of them, will take you past positive but short of static, could be done to address both, or ultimately all three levels (that would be ultra intense, I think, and should be used rarely and judiciously). The biggest mistake can be adopting these techniques in interaction with a more is better attitude. For me the end of that would be rapid progression into a state of overtraining and exhaustion.

In general I do not consistently go to complete (all three levels) of failure, but use higher levels more sparingly. Certainly levels of increased intensity, for me and my workouts, implies much decreased volume and frequency.

A typical full set (after a warm-up), as I would do it, might be 8 reps to positive failure. Continue to push into the weight when it has stopped mid-rep until it begins to descend. Then either add weight or use partner assistance to do negative reps to failure. No more sets, no more exercises for that bodypart.

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Training to Muscle Failure

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