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Training to Failure: Is it Necessary to Cause Muscle Growth

In the culture of fitness, the mind set is no pain, no gain. With the explosion of Crossfit, all you see these days is “Beast Mode” and “Train Insane or Remain the Same”, or some variation there of. In the world of fitness, Bro Science reigns supreme.  So many people follow a person because they have a good physique or curse in videos online. The no pain, no gain mentality. While high level weight training at times is uncomfortable, it should probably be the rarity, not the norm. Lifting to positive failure has been the undoing of many athletes. The constant stress batters the immune system, the endocrine system, and also drains the CNS if repeated bouts of exercise are performed without proper recovery. So how much exercise is enough and does failure need to be reached to elicit a response.

Latest Research in Spain Says…

At the Studies, Research , and Sports Medicine Center in Navarra, 29 test subject who played for the Spanish National Ball Team. The players were split into two groups; group 1 (RF), had 14 players who trained to failure. Group 2 (NRF), did not train to failure. The experiment lasted for 11 weeks and each training session was 45 minutes in length. RF trained with 8-10 reps and did each set to their limit. NRF did the same exercises, but capped all movements at 5 repetitions. From weeks 11-16, both groups trained identical using 85-90% of one rep maximum doing 2-4 repetitions, SO after this 16 week experiment, what information was learned?

To Train to Failure or Not to train to Failure, who wins?

Surprisingly, there was no difference between effectiveness in training to failure or to training within ones limits. The researchers also tested hormones, and the testosterone, cortisol, and IGF-1 levels were identical. The RF (failure) group had a higher IGFBP-3 level, which binds IGF-1, making it more effective than if bound by IGFBP-1. An interesting side not was that neither group gained much muscle mass; the RF (failure) group gained 4 ounces while the NRF (non-failure) group gained 2 ounces. The results could be due to over training or the players may not have had a keen interest in training or improper nutrition and supplement regimen. Perhaps a routine that blends failure and training below failure is the best way to ensure maximum gains and reduce injuries.