There are a few things you should know about this training method.
We’ll start with the obvious: bench pressing until you’ve hit a point where you can barely get the bar back up off your chest—and you’re not maxing out—will certainly help you spur muscle growth. While this statement is true, reaching a point of muscle exhaustion every time you train may do you more harm than good in certain circumstances.
Our bodies are made up of motor unites which contain muscle fibers and neurons. Simply put, the more intense a workout is, the more fast twitch muscle fibers are activated and these fibers lead to size and strength muscle growth.
Training until failure also causes our bodies metabolic stress which refers to the buildup of various metabolites like lactate and hydrogen ions which are thought to spur the muscle cell to grow. This metabolic stress in the muscle signals adaptation and can increase protein synthesis and muscle size.
There are different stages of muscle development and as we know, constantly changing up how you reach each stage is very important to see desired results. However, if you’re one to always push that last set out of each exercise you do because you think that’s the only way to grow, please read on.
Below, are a few points to keep in mind when you’re completing an exercise until failure:
- Don’t give up on those few reps leading up to failure because those can increase neural activation and are fatiguing to the muscle fibers just as much. Without strength in the preceding reps, how will you hit failure?
- The earlier reps are vital for motor learning. Once you perfect the form and keep it strong throughout the set, you’ll focus easier on maximally contracting the target muscle.
- Watch it on compound lifts, such as deadlifts or squats for the simple reason that when you get tired, your form may weaken and could cause injury and bad motor learning. Also, with a compound motion, not all of the muscles involved have hit failure by your exhaustion point. So, hitting that failure point can increase neural stress which can negatively impact the rest of your workout.
There are different ways to stimulate muscle growth, you don’t need to regularly hit muscle failure. From drop sets, max out reps, reaching failure, slowly increasing weight each set, low reps and high weight then vice versa, variation isn’t too difficult to stimulate growth.
Now for the bottom line: going until failure is very demanding on your body, so try not to do it five days a week. Listen to your body; if its telling you not to perform that last set until failure, don’t do it.