Failure Is The Only Option
Failure. This one little word generally has a negative connotation attached to it, yet in the world of exercise, strength training ‘to (muscle) failure’ is the goal. Training to failure means the trainee loads the muscles through a pain free range of motion to the point of absolute muscular exhaustion, i.e., the inability to move the weight, even another inch, with safe and proper form.
In my day-to-day work as an exercise instructor at InForm Fitness in Manhattan, NY, it is not uncommon to hear a client say, “I don’t like to fail”. The idea of exercising to muscular exhaustion (failure), for many, is discouraging and leaves them feeling quite negative.
It is important to reorient yourself from what you generally think of the word “failure” to mean and think of it as a pathway to success. C.S. Lewis has said, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement”. While I am pretty sure he didn’t have strength training in mind, I think it applies beautifully.
The goal is to always try for one more repetition (with safe and proper form) even if you do not think you can. Should you complete that repetition you must try again, always working for even just one more inch. This tremendous effort sends the signal to your brain to make your existing muscle fibers stronger. Unfortunately, should the trainee try to avoid muscle failure and therefore avoid the discomfort, they would never illicit the response they need to achieve all the wonderful benefits of strength training. Simply put, failure is the only option.
So, remember, with this new paradigm, strength training to failure is not a sign of weakness. Quite the contrary, it is a sign of strength, and of more strength to come.