For muscle growth to occur, your workouts have to be sufficiently challenging.
Doing most, if not all, working sets within 5 reps in reserve is probably your best bet to promote muscle growth (reps in reserve — how many reps you have left before you can no longer physically move the weight):
Therein lies the problem — since training close to failure is not as much fun as, say, being Ryan Gosling, most people don’t go anywhere close to those last few reps that make their faces contort.
For example, here’s the IG reel I did about what training to failure actually looks like. I mean, look at the redness of my face at the end of the set (click the picture to play):
And if you are all…
…please know that the subjects in this study…
…probably thought the same — experienced male lifters were asked “What weight do you usually lift for 10 repetitions on the bench press?” and then instructed to perform as many reps as possible.
Then they did the same exercise but this time they had a team of researchers pushing them to reach the actual failure. Guess what? Every participant got over 10 reps with some getting more than 20 (16 ± 5 on average).
So what they thought was training to failure before was not training to failure. Nor was it maximizing their gainz.
What can you do about it?
Training to failure is a skill that you need to learn. It’s necessary for stimulating muscle growth so make sure to practice it. This is why I either push my online clients to true failure at least once a week or program the AMRAP weeks (as many reps as possible) at the end of their training cycles.
This teaches them to judge reps in reserve more accurately so that they wouldn’t need to train to failure all the time as it can be counterproductive due to increased fatigue which can inhibit subsequent training and progressive overload, limiting long-term muscle growth.
I know you would rather eat your own nose than do leg press to failure but still, grit your teeth and take some exercises to failure. Get better at estimating reps in reserve and then train within 0-5 reps in reserve. As long as you are in that range, your training will be stimulative enough to build muscle.
Originally published by me on Medium on June 11, 2022