Working a muscle until absolute failure is paramount to progress – whether in muscle size, density or shape – and of course strength. Regrettably, most people I see in the gym conduct the same routine year after year, never digging in with the requisite intensity to initiate change. These poor souls are wasting their time. Here are 4 ways to ensure absolute failure:
Negatives – A muscle is much stronger when releasing from a contraction, roughly 50% stronger, so after a muscle seems defeated, it actually has a lot more left in it – if you then work it in reverse – called negatives. This means to continue after contraction failure by slowly lowering the weight, over and over, until this also becomes impossible. For example, when conducting curls – when you can no longer make a contraction, sling the weight back up and then slowly lower it, over and over – conducting negatives – until the muscle is totally spent. When you reach failure, there will always be a way cheat the weight back up and continue with negatives – usually be slinging the weight, but someone could also assist in this endeavor if you workout with a partner. Be creative.
Bumpers – Bumpers are another excellent way to finish off a muscle. This is where you continue to flex the muscle after you’ve reached failure. IE – you can’t execute another curl, but you can still bring it up half way, so you just keep doing them half way until you can only raise it a quarter of the way, and so on until you can’t move it at all.
Assisted Repetitions – This requires a partner and requires little explanation. Have your partner assist you moving the weight – until you both realize he’s doing all the work.
High Lows – These are also called chasers. IE – If conducting curls with 40 pound dumbbells, upon reaching failure, grab a set of 20 pounders and continue on until you reach failure again – and you can actually go on down the rack like this. This is called – going down the rack.
These are the best ways to push past seeming failure and finish off a muscle. This may seem a bit neurotic, but if you want to make progress with your muscles, you have to do what’s required.