One of the most common questions that I get is “Do I have to train until failure?” The answer is both yes and no.
When I first started working out my body was responding very fast and I was gaining muscle without killing myself in the gym. As time went by I found it harder and harder to progress. Nowadays I literally destroy myself in the gym every day in order to get even minimal progress. Out bodies are adapting very efficiently to the stress that is being imposed on them. In order for one to continue progressing, he or she should really put constant pressure on the body and muscles so that there is a constant incentive for growth. Here are the techniques I use in order to stress the muscle and force additional muscle growth.
Failure – Taking the set to failure is extremely important. In most of my videos you can see me reaching failure in almost all exercises. In order for the body to grow, you have to force it out of its comfort zone. You cannot do this with small weights and simple pumping. You have to take it to the limit and beyond. In this way a new level of stress will be introduced and your muscles will be forced to adapt. However, reach failure only on working sets with heavy weights for 6 to 10 repetitions maximum.
Drop Sets – When I reach failure your muscles cannot perform the movement any longer, but still this doesn’t mean they are out of gas. I take a 20-30% smaller weight and continue the set until I reach the point of failure again. Sometimes I perform up to 3-4 drop sets, which is called giant drop set. I may start with a pair of 45kg dumbbells for shoulder presses and end up doing the 10kg ones at the four consecutive drop set. In order to perform the giant drop set efficiently, prepare the smaller pairs of dumbbells beforehand so that you don’t waste time between the drop sets.
Forced Reps – Forced Reps can only be done with the help of a training partner. When I reach the point of failure on a given set I get 2-3 more repetitions with the help of my training partner. I like forced reps especially on heavy exercised, since this causes tremendous stress for the body overall. I suggest doing forced reps only on working sets and make sure that you don’t overuse them, otherwise your nervous system will be destroyed and you will feel very tired after the training.
Negatives – When it comes to forced stimulus, there is nothing beating negative repetitions. I perform the negatives always with a training partner. The negatives can be performed in two ways. First option is to do a set until failure and your partner will lift the weight for you in the concentric part of the movement and you will perform the eccentric/negative part of the movement for 3-5 seconds, very slowly, until you cannot move any longer. The hardcore version is to put heavy weight that is close to your 1 Rep Max and for your partner to help forcefully with the concentric part and for you to perform the negative only for 3-5 seconds. This option is extremely demanding and hard to do and is risky as well especially on heavy compound movements. However, the stress response from such type of overload is very strong and I personally testify to the effectiveness of the negatives as one of the best way to gain muscle mass.
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