Use Failure: Break Through The Plateau
Originally posted on October 28th
The biggest problem for most guys wanting to make gains in the gym is breaking through their plateau. Hitting failure is probably the most important part of setting yourself up for success in the gym. Most guys are smart enough to watch for good form to hit the targeted muscles, but most guys lack the sustained intensity to break through to new heights.
What’s key to keeping your intensity up is knowing when you’re tearing muscle for gain and keeping in the zone. Once you have the technique set for the exercise, select a weight that will burn you out by the 12th rep. You want to hit “failure” between reps 8 and 12 for maximal muscle gain. That doesn’t mean stopping at rep 10 or 12, but failing! Failure is the inability to sustain the correct form or technique at your set pace for 12 full reps. So you want to set yourself up with your exercise and weight so that the first few reps are under full control, and you start struggling to control it as you rack up the reps. By the time rep 8 happens, you should really be struggling. If you find you’re breezing through 12 reps, your load isn’t heavy enough, or you’re picking too easy a routine.
Use your first set to get a sense of how much weight you need. Sets 2 and 3 are your workhorse sets – they’re where you’re pushing the intensity and breaking down muscle. It should feel like you’re breaking it down, without doing serious damage. Set 4 usually is the set to finish off the work. You should have hit yourself hard enough in sets 2 and 3 that by the time you hit set 4, you have to reduce the weight. For most guys for most muscle groups, if you’re still hitting the same weight at set 4, you probably went too light earlier and haven’t challenged yourself enough. You’ll also want to switch it up every few workouts to go for earlier or later failure to either shock the muscle system or challenge it to build endurance.
So use this simple strategy with each exercise of each workout, and you’ll be breaking through your plateau and making new gains in the weight room!
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