Should Bodybuilders Train to Failure?
“No pain, no gain!”
You hit the gym like a maniac. You want every rep to burn. Every set has to be a max rep attempt. Maybe you even enlist a spotter to help you eek out an extra rep or two. Is training to failure or past failure a good practice for bodybuilders?
“The only rep that counts, is the one you can’t finish.”
To grow as a bodybuilder you need to push every set to failure. That’s how Arnold and all the great 70’s bodybuilders trained, right?
Some of the following techniques, called “Weider Training Principles” are used to take each set past failure:
- forced reps
- forced negatives
- rest pause
- partial reps
- drop sets
This is how bodybuilders have trained for years and it’s how bodybuilders should train today. Is it right?
High Intensity Training (HIT), not to be confused with HIIT, was born of the train-to-failure mantra. One goal of HIT is to perform one set of each exercise, taken as far past failure as humanly possible. A number of successful bodybuilders have used HIT to build some serious muscle mass, but it has its flaws when you also consider strength and endurance.
In fact a better way for bodybuilders to train is to take several sets to failure, but not necessarily past failure. The more you train to failure in a workout, the more damage is accumulated in the muscle tissue. This could hamper your recovery, potentiate injury, and prevent you from training again withing 48 hours due to severe DOMS.
A study at the Australian Institute of Sport found that taking most sets to failure appears to be the most effective way to stimulate muscle growth. This is due to an increase in growth hormone (GH) levels stimulated by training to or past failure, as compared to stopping just short of failure. Since a high GH level is important for optimal muscle growth, we can assume that training to failure often would be ideal for bodybuilders.
In related studies, it was found that taking only a single set to failure (no more, no less) is ideal for strength gains.
For most athletes, training to failure with more than one set per exercise is not a good idea. Most sports athletes prefer stamina, strength, power, and speed over bulk. In fact any athletes other than bodybuilders should avoid training to failure more than once per exercise.
On the other hand, based on the GH findings, bodybuilders should clearly train to failure on just about every set they perform, and even past failure using the Weider Training Principles metioned above. I am still not entirely sure if this is ultimately a better training methodology than muscle confusion and increased frequency, the principles on which the Werewolf Training routines are based.