It is often said that, rather than training to failure, you should leave one repetition left “in the tank.” I think this is good advice, particularly when you’re performing a max or near-max set (obviously, this advice doesn’t apply for sub-maximal sets). But what exactly does that mean? If you ask a few different trainers, you’ll probably get a few different answers. And there can be very stark consequences for very subtle differences. So, here’s what I usually recommend and why.
But first, a little insight into what I mean when I say “max or near-max training.” I’m not talking about sub-maximal “I sortof think I probably worked hard for a second there” type of training. I’m referring to true maximal effort work, where you are at or near your actual physical limitations. Only intermediate to advanced athletes can really tap into this level of training, and its difficult to do without a coach or, at the very least, a training partner. If you’re still not sure what this looks like, then the article here may help, or you can watch an example of a maximal set in a video I shot here. Now that that’s out of the way…
I rarely recommend training to muscle failure. That is, I rarely recommend performing such an all-out effort to the point of muscular disability – where you simply cannot do anything following a particular exercise set. I trained using this strategy for several years, and I’ve since abandoned it except on rare occasions – usually for testing purposes. Maybe it’s just that I don’t like showing weakness to anyone – even myself – but I just don’t understand the tendency to voluntarily incapacitate oneself. It makes me feel awfully vulnerable. But there are other reasons why it’s a good idea to avoid training to muscle failure, and the four most relevant ones, in my opinion are:
Continue reading 4 Reasons to Avoid Training to Muscle Failure