– Training until momentary muscular failure
– Leaving 1-2 reps in the tank and doing more sets
– Not going anywhere near failure staying at <% set efforts
*Progress typically being strength, hypertrophy, performance related for the context of this post and those who asked.
In truth they’re all viable, in fact you’d probably do well to cycle through phases of doing each in a periodised fashion or you could link them all together in a holistic approach.
Honestly at the stage of lifting most people are at they just need to get their reps in for the most part.
Also before you say it might be dangerous that is only if form is bad, if for is good there’s no real issue.
Let us look at each of the above and see who we can optimally use them.
– Training until momentary muscular failure –
A lot of solid research has been conducted based on the idea that it’s the last few reps (we’ll say the last 2-5) that really give you that much needed hit of adaptive stimulus to grow and every prior rep was just there.
^^ This is relevant for each method in this post.
Now some people would then be lead to think that doing lower rep set would bypass this and go straight to the stimulus.
Fair enough, however it doesn’t work like that.
The above is based on the accumulation of fatigue in the formative reps (depletion of energy system reserves etc) and depending on the rep ranges you use will then link in to the gains you get.
6-20 being said as optimal for hypertrophy.
^^ You can use compound movements however I’d say stick with lifts that have a lower potential for injury until you’re what the books consider an experienced lifter (2 years of solid lifting 3+ times per week).
It’s easier to get close to that momentary failure being meaningful with reps at 8+ I’ve found, less while personally I enjoy is just not viable for people who are not experienced lifters.
While finding the right weight and reps can be a bit of a tricky element (downside), the massive benefit is that you’ll only need a few sets per movement (upside).
Next time you train try this: 3-4 x fail on accessory lifts.
– Leaving 1-2 reps in the tank (RPE work) –
Favoured by many a lifter and great for all movement be those compound, supplementary or isolation.
In short yo’d be going to the point where you feel a bit of a grind beginning to happen. It is at this point over time you’ll learn that you’ve only got 1-2 reps left.
One problem with this though is that people will stop short.
They think they’ve got 1-2 reps left when in reality it’s more like 6-10.
Yes I’m being serious.
The danger here is that people will be leaving gains on the table because for lack of a better term they’re being a little bit soft.
As such this is where in the beginner days having them utilise the ‘going until failure’ is useful (provided they have good form) because they won’t be lifting that heavy so it will be more viable.
Once they’ve learned their limits using more weight and stopping short of failure becomes useful because it then allows more total volume as going to failure with heavier loads causes more overall damage and need more recovery time.
I’m not sorry to say that heavy isn’t relative, heavy is heavy.
Regardless of if you personally feel you lifting say 70kg x5 is the same as someone lifting 250kg x5 it’s not, apples & oranges as they say.
Leaving 1-2 reps in the tank is a great way for the more experience and stronger people to progress because they can add more total volume and build up fatigue over multiple sets.
It means that say 4 of your 6 sets might be the ones that are just there and the last two sets that have reps that are money makers.
^^ All of this is linked in to RPE (rate of perceived exertion), so the next time you train after each set write down on a scale of 1-10 how hard the set was, most of yours will want to be 8/9 on the scale (look up Reactive Training Systems – Mike Tuscherer).
That bring us to the last one.
-Not going anywhere near failure staying at <% set efforts-
A Russian weightlifting favourite because I do love the Russians.
This is a great method however it requires people to have been hitting some solid progress for a few years as it will be largely based on low reps and endless sets.
So what is set effort precisely?
Put simply, say your 6RM (rep max) is 100kg meaning you can do 1 set of 6 at 100kg and no more, yet you want to, how can this be done?
Easy, 6RM is 100% set effort, so if you work at 50% efforts you’d be doing sets of 3 reps.
This means you might be able to do 3,4,5,6, or perhaps 20 sets of 3 with your 6RM as opposed to just one set of 6 with your 6RM.
An epic way to train that will leave you feeling fresh at the end of most if not all of your sessions and that’s the dangerous part.
People chase fatigue so as valuable as this method is it doesn’t hit their emotional/cognitive bias and as such they’d end up doing more and burning out.
You’d also have to be well versed in what is known as CAT (compensatory acceleration training) – you lift each rep with everything you’ve got, basically.
*Using CAT on your sets of 3 you’d go until you feel speed of reps is lost, which could be as mentioned above, 3 sets or 23 sets. When speed is lost it means you’ve hit your stills for the day, even if you don’t feel fatigued you are, trust me.
It is this that would provide the stimulus we’ve touched on above.
^^ Fred Hatfield is the man to look up for CAT.
So, which is best?
Based on how long you’ve been lifting:
<2 years: Training until momentary muscular failure
2-4 years: Leaving 1-2 reps in the tank and doing more sets
4 years +: Not going anywhere near failure staying at <% set efforts
Not everyone will like this answer and while for some rare exceptions it’s the right answer for the average person.
If like me you’re just an average person then don’t fear doing the simple things.
These days we live in an age where everyone is trying to keep up with everyone else and unless you’re doing HIIT, or some sort of ‘Ultra-Mega-Oblivion Set’ you’re some kind of lesser human.
Yea that’s complete bollocks.
It’s only the highly insecure that feel the need to make their training look more complicated or fancier than is it.