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Training to Failure…

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Thank you to Jason Ferruggia of Renegade Gym for this article…Part Two will be posted tomorrow


trainingtofailure1 1 Training to Failure: Part 1If I had to pick one thing that holds people back more than anything else it would probably be training to failure. Of course, proper program design, a good diet and a lot of sleep are the three biggest keys. But, assuming those bases are covered, I firmly believe there is nothing more detrimental to your progress than training to failure on a regular basis.


After nearly two decades in the industry I’m at the point where I can watch someone train for 30 minutes and instantly spit out on-the-money predictions about what kind of progress they will make in the next 12-16 weeks. And I’m no brain surgeon.


If they routinely use extra psyche techniques before sets, do slow, grinding reps, let their form get sloppy, scream their way through the end of a set, or really do anything less than technically perfect, explosive reps throughout the course of a workout I know for a fact, exactly what’s going to happen. I’ve just seen it way too many times.


The end result is they make minimal gains, their central nervous systems get fried, their joints get beat up and they always feel like shit.


Those Who “Get it” & Those Who Don’t


In my gym we have some people who get it. Because they get it they make continual progress and never get injured. Those that don’t get it make gains at a snails pace and accumulate nagging injuries over time.


This week we’re testing maxes. We do this no more than four times per year because doing so is too stressful on the CNS. What we will see this week is that the ones who get it will make fantastic progress. Those that don’t will only be up a few pounds, if at all. Some will be weaker.


Now, trust me; I wish it wasn’t like this. I love to train insanely hard. Cranking up some Black Flag and head butting a wall before every set used to be a way of life for me. Nothing sounds like more fun, in fact. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. And that makes me sad. I really wish it did because I love high intensity training in theory. It also makes for a hell of a training atmosphere.


You have to ask yourself, though; do want results or do you want to have fun?


I want both but at the end of the day if my numbers are climbing that’s a lot more fun to me than doing the same weights I did three weeks ago and grinding them up with shitty form. Which is exactly what happens when you go to failure all the time; you make zero progress or you get weaker.


Then you get injured.


It all sucks.


Trust me; I experienced it for years.


So What Do You Do?


For starters, you decide that results are the most important thing. When you accept that you have no choice but to ditch the training to failure routine. I did it a while ago and it’s made a world of difference. Everyone I’ve convinced to do the same has experienced similar, outstanding results.


trainingtofailure1 2 300x217 Training to Failure: Part 1This is not an excuse not to train hard. You always have to train hard. On a side note, be on the lookout for my inevitable follow up article coming out in a few months entitled, Train Like a Man, You F*cking Pussy.


Every rep you do should be performed as explosively as possible with ONE HUNDRED PERCENT effort. A lot of people don’t get this. They leisurely cruise their warm up sets while whistling Dixie. This is a HUGE mistake.


Always treat light weight like it’s heavy. Warm up and “work up sets” are practice sets. Do them exactly like you will do your heaviest sets; with maximal tension throughout your body and maximal acceleration throughout each rep. When you do them slowly and sloppily you are missing out on the CNS arousal benefits, losing an opportunity to perfect your technique and are more likely to get injured.


The fact is more injuries occur with light weights than do with heavy weights. That’s because people don’t respect a light weight like they do a heavy weight.


When you get to your work sets be sure you always crush every single one of them with explosive speed and power. Make that set your bitch. Don’t ever let it get the best of you and start squirming and slowly grinding your way to the finish.


When you do that you’re fucked.


Plain and simple.


Never do slow, grinding death reps. And NEVER, EVER miss a rep in training or have a partner assist you in getting the weight up.


Never, ever, ever? (Andre 3000 asks)




When you miss a rep you may as well take the rest of whatever training cycle you’re on off. Because your chances of going up next workout after a missed rep that actually came back down on you are pretty dismal. My advice would to take a week off and start something new.


Comments: 6

    1. A good question, and there will be more to this article that I will post over the next few days…

      For a quick “Don’t-train-to-failure” guide…

      Max Effort Work (Strength portion of our CF WOD’s) = stay far from failure

      Hypertrophy (higher rep/MetCons) work with dumbbells, kettlebells, bodyweight = near failure, but leave 1-3 reps in the tank

      1. And to just expand on my post, the goal of a MetCon is conditioning and that’s what you need to take away from that part of the workout. If you want to work harder, and you question if the prescribed weight is too heavy for you, let’s cut the weight a bit and get through the MetCon faster and in a safer way. If the prescribed weight is too heavy, your form will certainly suffer and you will not only be reinforcing bad form, but you will be putting yourself at a greater risk for injury.

        There’s much more to come on this topic and we will be going over this with everyone during workouts.

      2. So how do we train to, or find our 1RM without risking failure? Is it no longer a 1RM? More like a 1R 85%?

        1. I would rarely, if ever, train a TRUE 1RM. Instead I would have you work off of a percentage of your PERCEIVED 1RM.

          There are a few ways to calculate your 1RM. The formula we use is:

          weight. x reps x .0333 + weight.= 1RM

          For example, if you can squat 405 for 6 reps this formula then becomes:

          405 x 6 x .0333 + 405 = a perceived 1RM of 485

          With this number in mind, every work set becomes a certain percentage of your 1RM with the heaviest weight being used in the 85%-90% range. When we arrive at a day that calls for this heavy of a load, for working up to heavy single, your last set would be 85%-90% of your 1RM and I would have you do as many reps as possible…stopping 1 or 2 reps short of failure. There is no easy formula to use with everyone, but we will work with everyone to get a feel for when they should stop a set, stopping short of failure. This will keep you safe, this will not destroy your nervous system, and this will keep you making progress in the long run.

          1. Awesome and seriously great to know. Really helps me think about how to track progress….so when is EVF Strength starting?!?!

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