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The Secret About Training To Failure


Oct 30, 2022

If you are here to build your body and grow some badass muscles, learning how to train with intensity is non-negotiable.

In training, the main driver of transformation is progressive overload.

The most important variable for this principle is load selection. It means that in every training session, you need to choose a weight that will help you build the body you dream of.

But do you need to train to failure in every session to get the most out of your training?

Let’s have a look at what the research says…

Going completely to failure shows no clear benefit than staying 3 reps shy of failure (3 Reps in Reserve = RIR). But what we can also see is that training less hard than 3 RIR will lead to suboptimal results.

That means we need to find the sweet spot between going always to failure (which will cause a lot of fatigue and no results) and staying somewhere around 3 RIR.

So, what’s then the best approach?

1. Start your new training block with 3 RIR
2. Track your weight and reps
3. Add weight and/or reps each week and try to match the weight and/or reps from last week

Let’s take the Back Squats as an example here:
Week 1: 8 x 60kg
Week 2: 8 x 65kg (increased weight)
Week 3: 9x 65kg (increased reps)
Week 4: 10x 70kg (increased reps and weight)

As soon as you hit failure or are accumulating fatigue over the weeks, you exhausted your training program and it’s time to take a deload.

Now what to do if you are new to training?

Here are some guidelines depending on your training level:

Beginner (first two years)

  • Start at 4-5 RIR in your first training week a work towards 2 RIR in your last training week. This is great for technique establishment.
  • More isn’t needed for optimal results because you still can make some newbie gains

Intermediate (first 2-7 years) ​

  • Start at 3 RIR and end your training program at 0-1 RIR. This will lead to optimal results. If you are training with less intensity nothing will happen and your body stays the same.
  • Choose 0 RIR for stuff that won’t fall on you (e.g. lateral raises) and 1 RIR for stuff that will (e.g. back squats).

Advanced (7+ years) ​

  • Start at 2 RIR and end beyond failure on the last week – That can look like drop sets in the last week of training or assisted forced reps.

Extra Tip For Beginners
If you are unsure how many reps you can do with a certain weight, film yourself during an exercise where you can safely fail, don’t count your reps, and see how much work you are able to do.
After the set, watch your video and count the reps.

Have you done more than 3-5 reps as written in the program?
👉🏼 The selected load was too light.​

Have you done less than 3-5 reps as written in the program?
👉🏼 The selected load was too heavy. ​

Now you can assess and find your sweet spot.

Want to learn even more about load selection? Check out our “Load Selection 101″ video HERE.

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