3. Don’t Make Every Set As Hard As Possible
Hardcore, dedicated lifters often use advanced training techniques to take every set well past muscle failure. I know I did; when I was in my 30s, my training partner and I did forced reps on every single set. We were determined to push as hard as possible.
I now know that was a mistake. An eight-week Australian study that found that doing one of four sets of bench presses to failure produced double the strength gains compared to lifters who didn’t take any of their sets to failure. But in a follow-up study, the researchers found that doing more than one set to failure on the bench offered no additional strength gains.
When the two studies were compared, the strength gains reported in the group that took one set to failure were more impressive than the gains in the group that took multiple sets to failure. A possible reason? Taking just one set to failure may provide enough of a training stimulus without the risk of overreaching, which may occur when too many sets are taken to failure.
Although training to failure can stoke muscle growth, there is evidence to suggest it may also increases the potential for overtraining and psychological burnout. Additionally, training to failure over 16 weeks has been shown to reduce levels of growth-inducing hormones, suggesting subjects may have been overtrained.
Further suggesting that training to failure plays a lesser role in the hypertrophic response is a study that noted that training to failure with light weight did not produce marked strength gains (meaning that failure itself wasn’t the most critical factor).In fact, increasing the resistance of the movement recruits more motor units and is correlated with gains in strength and hypertrophy.
Training intensity (average weight lifted per day, week, etc.) and relative intensity (percent of your one-rep max) are more critical to making gains in strength and power, especially among experienced trainers. Using heavier weights and not consistently training to failure provides adequate stimulus, especially with regard to strength development