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What is failure?

Posted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 12:05 am
by mes
Another new weight trainer. I've gotten most of my information from reading, and in person people have given conflicting reports. Everything that I trust reading says that you must take sets to failure, but I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean. That I don't really want to do another set, or that I really can't do it at all? I've been using the latter method, but want to make sure this is correct. I usually feel a burn a rep or two (or more) before the actual inability to complete a movement. A couple folks suggested that the burn represented failure, but it doesn't seem like "failure" to me if I can still lift.

What's the verdict?

Posted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 12:56 am
by Jhawk Fitness
Failure means you are unable to complete another full rep of an exercise (i.e your spotter must help you move the weight back into the starting position to be racked).

Posted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 1:02 pm
by Ryan A
There is already a detailed discussion of this below (on page 2) or you can find it here:

Basically, training as you describe it (training to the inability to complete another rep) is bad. You can read about it in the existing thread.

failure and intensity of training.

Posted: Thu Feb 23, 2006 10:11 pm
by mes
Okay, I read through that.

I meant to make clear, but maybe it got lost in editing, that I do use form as a consideration.

If I can get the weight lifted but only by breaking form in some way (perhaps not completing a movement, or shifting my body inappropriately), I've been considering that failure and stop.

One thing that got said was about CNS failure being important in strength training. Size isn't bad, muscle mass being good for fitness and fat-loss etc., but my primary interest is in getting stronger (for sports -- basketball, raquetball, softball), especially upper body. But maybe that should wait until I've been training longer?


Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 12:21 am
by dian in spokane

I doubt you'll find anyone here who would argue in favor of training to failure.

There are exceptions of course, so there might be a few.

I'd certainly suggest that you save failure for the platform.

If you are not competing, then I'd say it should be a rare thing.

And yes, form should be an issue! Although there are some notable lifters who lift with lousy form (Vince Anello!!), the more you trifle with bad form, the more likely you are to walk like a cripple as you age.

Mostly, I say, in while you are young, in LIFTING.. absolutely save it till you've trained for it. And try to do it with a partner.

Even in a nice safe rack, crawling out from under a bar without help is no fun. However thrilling it might be.

Building your strength is great, but..I'd think you'd want quickness for sports like racquetball and basketball. So..what good is it for you to be able to say you can go out and squat one rep for 500lbs or something? Bragging rights are ok, but explosiveness and agility will serve you better in my opinon.

Pushing yourself is good, but keeping your own personal goals in mind is of the foremost importance.

Posted: Fri Feb 24, 2006 12:11 pm
by Bill L
I had followed the train to failure method for some time and quickly found it's disadvantages - (1)it ate into my recovery time and (2)produced some injuries that at times, nag me years later.

i am all about strength and conditioning and found that leaving a little in the gas tank for next time, goes a long way. I can work out more frequently (conditioning) and therefore gain at a more consitant and quicker pace in the long run.

Just my $0.02.

Good luck and SAFE training,
Bill L

Posted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 8:33 pm
by mes
Not competing, and mostly doing nautilus stuff that doesn't involve getting out from under a bar. I wouldn't want to do squats (or a lot of other free weight exercises) to failure without a spotter. I'm actually glad to hear it's not necessary to go that far to make good progress, because I was a litle iffy about exactly that.

As far as the sports I play, it's absolutely true that quickness is far more important, but that's something you develop with practice at the sport (or exercises based on the sport), mostly. Yeah, if lifting was taking that away, I'd be concerned, but so far that's not a problem. Note, I'm playing at a "rec league" level in both sports, I have never been, nor to I expect to become semi-pro or anything, and I'm coming back from a multiyear couch potato layoff -- still about 40-50 lbs. overweight. My upper body in general is not that strong (my bench 1RM is probably around 170-180 and I weigh 250), and I feel it when I go into the paint in bb, and in my delts and lats in rb. There's a lot of twist muscles there that get strained after a match with good players where I have to hit hard to be competitive, especially in the backhand where my form isn't quite as optimal. I'd like to get some of those strong enough to take the pounding better.

Anyway, suggestions are always welcome, and I'm going to try taking it a little easier and see if I can go back to every other day training. A couple of my exercises were going backward in reps, so I figured I was overtraining and should go less often. But maybe if I'm not pushing so hard it'll be better.


Posted: Sat Feb 25, 2006 11:45 pm
by Ryan A
Absolute speed/ explosiveness is definately correlated to strength. It may not be the whole story but it does matter. One can only get so strong playing a given sport. The easiest way to get strong is to lift weights and yes, at some point, there will be diminishing returns or even negative returns on getting stronger but I would say unless you are squatting and deadlifting near double bodyweight, you dont really need to consider them harming your abilities.

You could find more immediate gain from some other activity. Certainly, many sports can be easier on the body and your performance will improve if you find the right weight/strength ratio for your body and thsi can often mean gaining or losing some weight. Lifting is also a great way to control this factor.


Posted: Tue Nov 02, 2010 6:28 am