I was talking to a private coaching client of mine who was
testing out a program that I’ve personally had good success
It packs on muscle fast – at least on me.
We were talking about his results and he said that his
shirt did get tighter across the chest and arms, but that
he thought he screwed up the protocol when first starting
He thought he took the “training to failure” a little too far and
it ended up hurting his gains.
In other words, he made gains, but not as much as he thought
Here’s where it gets interesting…
Everyone seems to “parrot” that training to failure is bad,
counterproductive, and usually, the end of the world
happens when you hit failure – like crossing the streams
However, and this could just be me spitballing – I’m guessing
very few people have ever really trained to failure or have
a good working definition of failure. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve trained to failure and made some of my best gains ever.
For example, when I was in my 20s – I put 90 pounds on
my squat in 6 weeks – and squatted 415lbs for 13 reps
at a bodyweight of 228 – training to failure. And that set
of squats was done on a bodybuilding pre-exhaust program
of leg extensions, leg curls, and leg presses, all done to
failure, BEFORE squatting.
So, let me give you my working definition of failure (that
I learned from my coach)
FAILURE = When your rep speed slows or your technique
And it’s usually, depending on how efficient you are at a
particular exercise, 1 to 3 reps away from Absolute Failure –
the point at which you can no longer perform a rep without
some major body english.
The truth be told, I use failure ALL the time in my programs.
I use the RM – or Rep Max as a baseline for almost everything
It’s a great way to find your starting point and to use as a
And it’s a great way to get really strong, muscular, or even
really well conditioned, depending on your goal.
So here’s how you REALLY use this whole training to failure
thing in your workouts, WITHOUT experiencing burn out or
WARNING: Disregard or violate the following advice at your
own peril. Every time I have I have gotten injured.
When you’re training for strength (and even body comp changes
I’d argue) pick a rep max (RM) for a particular lift and use that as your
as your starting point.
I like a 4 or 5RM. (In fact, this is the starting point for the
“STRONG!” program inside “Kettlebell STRONG!”).
And from there, start your programming.
Do you keep trying for 4 or 5 reps each time you train?
That’s dumb and counterproductive. You’ll burn out your
nervous system faster then a sailor goes through cash
on shore leave.
Instead, just train in the “comfortable” rep range – 1 to 3
for multiple sets and slowly bump that range up over time –
2 to 4… 3 to 5… 4 to 6…
Make sure you “wave the loads” too. Don’t do the same sets
for the same reps all the time.
Stop when you get tired or your rep speed slows down.
This is arguably the simplest, yet most misunderstood method
for getting really, really strong with kettlebells.
If you want to see (and experience) how this kind of cycle
works to achieve newfound strength levels, make sure you
check out the Triple Phase, 18-36 week “STRONG!” cycle
inside “Kettlebell STRONG!”.
Remember, training to failure isn’t bad if you know how to
P.S. Remember that classic line in “Ghostbusters” when
Bill Murray’s character Dr Peter Venkman finds his girlfriend
Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) possessed by a demon?
“So, she’s a dog…”
Love that scene! Can still see it in my head.