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Seek Out Muscular Failure, Don't Avoid It

Exercise, when it is performed properly, is supposed to be hard. Let's think for a second about what we are doing when we perform a slow-speed, high intensity weight training workout. We are loading the muscular structures with a resistance that the exercise subject can safely handle at a 10/10 speed until they reach muscular failure in a window of one to three minutes of time under load. This sequence is performed for five to seven exercises that encompass the entirety of the body's musculature, both upper and lower body. The client will move quickly between exercises so that metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning are optimized (both are diminished if you rest between exercises). This is all done in order to provide the body with a good reason to mobilize its resources to make physical improvements. Although our natural instincts might tell us otherwise, we need to have a mindset where we seek out muscular failure rather than avoid it.

It is human to want to avoid discomfort. Pain and discomfort are the human body's mechanism for getting us to pay attention to what's going on. However, it's important to be able to make the distinction between exertional discomfort (which is harmless) and injurious pain (which is bad). The essence of true exercise is inroad. This means that we are systematically fatiguing our musculature, one repetition at a time, until we are no longer capable of completing another repetition in proper form. We still do not know what exact percentage of effort is optimal for stimulating maximum physical improvements. It might be 85 percent, but there is no real way to measure that. As it currently stands, there are only two measurements of effort: zero percent and 100 percent. We know for sure that giving no effort will not stimulate anything, and by going to muscular failure we have given as much effort as we can possibly give, i.e, 100 percent. Most people are not accustomed to exertional discomfort, but one's ability to mentally and physically deal with it will increase over time. This is how we become more resilient.

Form discrepancies are instinctive behaviors that try to make things just a little bit easier. A brief unload at bottom out or a slight off/on can give you just a momentary respite during an exercise. Even experienced clients with excellent form and motor control will occasionally commit form discrepancies, and it doesn't mean that you have any sinister motives. The problem is that in addition to posing safety hazards, form discrepancies unload the musculature and defeat the real objective that we are trying to accomplish. They make our exercise experience less efficient. When your muscles ache and your lungs burn, do you want to prolong the exercise? Form discrepancies can only serve to artificially extend the exercise by unloading the musculature and diminishing the stimulus. The idea is not to prolong the exercise, but rather to put an end to it. If you narrow your focus on proper form and speed at the moment things start to become challenging, you will finish the exercise more efficiently and achieve a higher quality of stimulus.

Don't succumb to your instincts! There is always a challenge to be met. The Total Results exercise protocol may seem easy at first, because we conservatively estimate the weights we use for the initial consultation. Teaching proper form is paramount, but we also want to mentally prepare you to deal with approaching muscular failure when that time comes. If we don't seek out and achieve muscular failure, then we don't create the greatest possible stimulus, which is the key to obtaining positive physical change. A workout only lasts twenty minutes; don't allow the physical and temporary discomfort of fatigue to stray you from your path.

Posted August 12, 2023 by Matthew Romans