Resistance training (like weight lifting) is an effective way to increase muscle size and strength, which is important for people of all ages. Having more muscle can not only help us lose weight, but it has also been shown to have benefits in reducing the risk of developing certain diseases, and is even important for mental health.
Not only are there many types of resistance workouts you can do to build muscle (such as bodyweight exercises or using weight machines), there are also many small adjustments you can make to your muscle. training program to better develop your muscles.
One resistance training technique that has become popular recently is called “failure training.” Some even claim that this technique can help people build muscle and strength more effectively than other techniques.
The idea of training to failure is that instead of performing only a certain number of repetitions for an exercise, you do as many reps of that exercise as possible until your muscles are so tired that you can no longer perform the movement. The person then rests to let their muscles recover briefly, before repeating the pattern two or three more times.
Proponents of Workout to Fail say there are three factors that explain why it helps people build muscle better:
- It recruits more muscle fibers during a movement than you would by doing fewer repetitions,
- It is more stressful on our metabolic system, which releases chemical signals that can promote muscle growth,
- Training to failure can stimulate the release of certain hormones into our bloodstream that are believed to optimize muscle growth.
But when we actually take a look at the studies that have looked at failure training, the benefits aren’t that simple.
For example, researchers recently compared the effects of performing three sets of failed squats versus doing the same number of squats but evenly spread over six sets. They found that training to failure produced higher levels of blood lactate (a chemical signal released by working muscles) and growth hormone than the other group, both of which were linked. to muscle growth.
But the researchers also found that the failed training group had higher levels of cortisol in their blood. This hormone is released in response to stress, and research shows that it can actually hinder muscle growth.
Another study showed that muscle strength and power (applying as much force as quickly as possible) was significantly lower when performing both squats and bench press to failure. Muscle damage and soreness was also significantly greater within 24 to 48 hours of exercising compared to those who performed only a set number of squat and bench press repetitions during training. These two factors combined can actually reduce a person’s ability to build muscle and strength during exercise.
The best method?
To understand whether or not training to failure helps build muscle and strength, two reviews from 2021 pooled data from 19 different studies that compared people who exercised to failure or not. set number of repetitions only. Overall, both reviews found that training to failure had no benefit for increasing muscle size, strength, or power over the other technique.
The two reviews also showed that any moderate benefit from training to failure depended on many different factors, such as age, how often the person trained, and what other types of training they did. (like cardio exercises, like jogging). Some of the studies included in the reviews even found that training to failure was counterproductive for muscle growth and strength building. This is most likely due to the fatigue that a person may experience when training to failure, which can affect the amount of exercise they are actually able to do in total during a workout. .
There are a few explanations why failure training may not be as effective as some claim.
First, research shows that training to failure does not necessarily recruit more muscle fibers – which is often cited as a benefit of training to failure when it comes to help build strength and muscle. Research actually shows that other methods, such as lifting heavy weights for a set number of reps, are more effective at recruiting more muscle fibers to a particular movement.
Second, it is not clear whether the stress that training to failure places on our metabolic system actually contributes to greater muscle growth.
And third, research shows that the increased levels of certain hormones in our bloodstream that result from training to failure don’t necessarily improve muscle growth.
But if you prefer training to failure, research shows that getting enough rest between sets is essential for building muscle size. In fact, research shows that people who rested for five minutes between sets (compared to those who rested only one minute) were able to lift more weight and build more muscle. This may be because it allows your muscles to recover between exercises.
While training to failure is no better than traditional strength training, it can still lead to gains in muscle size and strength and keep people fit and healthy. .