Sergio Molina, one of our MM Fit trainers, explains to us how to use muscle failure , which is used almost always.
According to experience, 70% of bodybuilding practitioners abuse muscle failure , since the idea focuses on gaining muscle mass, therefore they abuse it.
The critical point is that these types of athletes, who are either beginners or intermediate, do not always know how to optimize it and how to use it in the correct way.
Muscle failure: what is it?
Muscle failure ( muscle failure ) refers to lifting weights to the point where a muscle can no longer contract concentrically; that’s a fancy way of saying the muscle just can’t do another rep.
Athletes overload their muscles to adapt and stimulate their muscle fibers to grow and regain more weight. Another form of muscle overload is to train to momentary muscle failure , which recruits the maximum number of motor units and muscle fibers.
The point is that there is no consensus that what is the best way to build muscle.
- Critics and supporters of training to failure often express their argument in non-anatomical terms, as if their views on muscle failure go to the heart of who each is as an athlete , or even as a person.
- On the one hand, there are those who use it according to their goals, while others (including great bodybuilders) refer that fighting to the limit is a fundamental part of muscle growth.
For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger summed up this point of view when he said: “The last 3 or 4 reps is what makes the muscle grow, this area of pain divides the champion from the others and that is what most of people are lacking: having the guts to continue and say that they will go through the pain, whatever happens. ”
However, the evidence and experience from years of research and the new training trend can support both points of view.
Muscle failure: can we analyze it?
Sergio Molina explains why and how to use it in the most correct way possible, but first, can we analyze it?
First our expert wants to ask you a question and that you think, that you do an introspection, that you think if you are applying the ruling correctly:
- Are you reaching muscle failure ?.
- How are you getting there, in which year?
- Are you abusing him?
Science and experience is what can answer this and, if it really should be abused, if it is good, it is bad, etc.
In the old school of ancient bodybuilding, it is true that the technique of muscle failure has been abused a lot, but what happens?
What happens that science advances, experience also advances and little by little it is being seen that not abusing it and not always going to failure, will cause the same benefits and even more benefits because it is not going to you to hurt so much.
When you hit failure, what happens is that you are causing a lot of fatigue, however the stimulus is almost the same as if you leave a series or a repetition before failing.
But if you already reach that muscle failure, you are going to cause a lot of fatigue, because your technique in a given exercise is altered and in the end the stimulus is practically the same.
Reduces fatigue with branched amino acids
Muscle failure always: why not?
According to Sergio and other bodybuilding experts, it is not necessary to reach that muscle failure, because studies and according to what has been seen and has been shown lately things are becoming clear:
- Really not getting so close to muscle failure , staying close but not reaching it, staying in a grid (three – zero), which would be the repetition before failing of 3 to 0, it would be correct for hypertrophy.
- But, abusing that failure, almost always reaching that failure or always, that recovery and that fatigue that we are generating extra to the body comes into play here,
This is basically like a glass; you have a glass and if you fill it with more fatigue than stimulus, that glass is going to overflow. Then the ideal is that in that glass you put what interests you, which is the stimulus and do not generate too much fatigue.
Muscle failure: can it be used?
It worked to some extent for many bodybuilders throughout history, but at what cost? And, to explain this, you have to understand the differentiations between muscle failures.
First of all you shouldn’t go to extremes, because this is misinterpreted and humans love extremes, they go from one extreme to another and in the end you don’t know the grayscale, even a color scale, and in Generally one goes in black or white, no.
Before black or white, there is a grayscale so we are going to take advantage of it because virtue is precisely in that middle point.
- The point is that you do not go to the other extreme either and, if you train for muscle failure , do not go not even close to failure because of that fear of fatigue that it generates.
- Failure every now and then is good, but don’t abuse it.
Basically, the important and the priority is the standardized technique so that the stimulus is focused on the muscle to work.
What happens here is that when you go to that failure, you get closer to that failure, to those last repetitions, basically the technique deteriorates and it is normal, right? It will surely happen to you.
Well, that technique, what happens is that it gets worse and worse: “what you are generating is more fatigue and less stimulation”, then, when this technique no longer works completely, in the end the stimulation of the target muscle group , is minimal.
In this scenario, almost nothing is achieved because other muscle groups are taking it away and the fatigue that you are generating, trying to do more repetitions, is very high and this will affect recovery from session to session.
Muscle failure: how to do it?
What happens is that, if you abuse this muscle failure , fatigue will accumulate and in the end that glass overflows, that water falls down the sides, then it does not go away optimizing that process.
For this reason, Sergio Molina explains to us an alternative that is the one he likes and the one that he would do the most when it comes to failure, and that is the technical failure.
There is a difference between muscle failure and technical failure, precisely what you are doing and what the majority do is muscle failure: simply when they cannot do more repetitions, they stop and that’s it, where the technique is completely de-standardized.
In a barbell row for example, what happens is that you are continually pulling the erectors, continuously pulling that spine extension and that hip extension, therefore the stimulus is not focusing on the dorsal, which is the muscle you want to work.
What happens here ?: if you use that proposed alternative, which is the technical failure, the repetitions and the series are stopped just when you cannot do more repetitions, because you cannot maintain the technique.
The muscle failure is basically that, regardless of the technique, you fail and that’s it, but the technical failure is that you stop the series, stop doing repetitions, once the technique fails.
Technical failure: ideal solution?
And here, what happens is that you are not generating that excess fatigue and you are not generating that accumulation of water, “which is fatigue” … in the glass so that it overflows …
In this process what you are doing is optimizing the process because you are generating a brutal amount of stimulus and minimal fatigue.
In addition, the main limiting factor why you cannot do more repetitions is the muscle group you want to work, which means that you will feel it more, you will take advantage of it more.
You will get more blood flow and more recruitment of motor units and muscle fibers and, therefore, you will get more stimulation.
So, why abuse muscle failure , being able to have the alternative of technical failure that is efficient?
Technical Failure: Beginners
This fault will be determined from the level;
- If you ask a beginner to go to technical failure, he will surely fail in the first repetition, because the technique is not standardized and he does not have that necessary intermuscular coordination.
- In this scenario, the mental exercise to coordinate and activate certain muscle groups, which are responsible for performing this action, is still not efficient enough.
Here, what happens? … they go with the bar like this because they are recruiting other muscle fibers and other muscle groups … making the movement and that travel not constant.
So, standardizing the technique (this is emphasized) comes first, and also be clear that this technique has to be the most similar from the first to the last repetition.
When you start to fail, when your technique fails everything will completely fall apart … you must cut there …
That would be the technical failure and also be clear that, as has been said, if you are a beginner, no one can require you to go to that technical failure because you do not have the accepted technique, you do not have it standardized.
So what you have to do here is just when you start to be intermediate or advanced, you start to worry about this glitch.
A beginner does not need to go to failure or technical or muscular, because the first adaptations that arise are at the coordination level. These adaptations are at the level that the brain sends signals and begins to coordinate the muscle groups that it wants to work.
Muscle failure: when is it efficient?
A beginner, in principle, should not abuse the ruling; Moreover, it should not go, from the point of view of our experts, almost never.
But, an intermediate / advanced one should start and an advanced one, obviously, already has to put those advanced hypertrophy techniques like rest-pause, drop-set, super series, etc. and eventually get to use frequently especially of this technical failure.
But beware, this does not mean that muscle failure is never used, because from time to time it comes in handy, doing what is called AMRAP, which is basically “As Many Repetitions As Possible ”, As its acronym in English says.
- And well, in the end doing an AMRAP is basically going to do all the possible repetitions.
- This you can do from time to time, especially in analytical exercises, in single-joint exercises like a bicep curl, like a pulley cross that is more analytical, and not a bench press that would be a multi-joint.
- In this analytical exercise, perhaps you get closer to that AMRAP and that muscle failure , it can be more efficient and it can be more logical, it can have more space.
This occurs because in a single joint exercise, you are only working one joint and, therefore, a muscle group that is responsible for that joint.
Here, the fatigue generated and the involvement of other muscle groups when you fail the technique is more difficult and less than in a multi-joint exercise.
The critical point is not to abuse any of them, because you have to have a head and you have to know that in this training, “More is not Better” but “Better with a head is Better”, so use your head.
Muscle failure : what does science say?
In a sense training to failure (muscle / technical) can be anabolic in the right context. According to research, a greater increase in lactic acid in the muscle is essential for muscle growth, since it triggers increases in intramuscular growth factors 
It has also been established that training to muscle failure , especially single joint exercises increases lactic acid production, although your arms could probably tell you that more convincingly than any study!
A second benefit of training to failure is that, near the end of a set, all the smaller muscle fibers fatigue. Faced with the continual challenge of lifting a heavy weight, your nervous system is forced to use the largest fast-twitch muscle fibers in your body.
The only problem with this approach is that once you have tested the nervous system for a series of failures, you develop “central fatigue”, a point we discussed earlier.
Once your nervous system is fatigued, all subsequent sets will be performed at a much lower capacity, which is why high-performance professional bodybuilders use what they call the “effective set”, in which they train the muscle failure only in this series in a given exercise.
This is supported by research showing that failing the last set of each exercise results in increased muscle growth and strength .