Training in the gym is one of the few areas where failure is the goal. Pushing your muscles to the point of failure and beyond is difficult and hurts, however, if you're building muscle, you may find training to failure beneficial.
Training to failure is when you conduct an exercise until you cannot complete another rep. Starting with correct and strict form, to go beyond failure is to push out a few more reps with (slightly) looser form, to ensure you are pushing past failure in your set.
Another option for training to failure is to train to what's called technical failure. Unlike with absolute failure, when you can't lift that barbell and do that curl at all, technical failure is when you perform a set with the correct form on each repetition until you're unable to maintain proper form. When you reach this point in a workout, the set is over.
The difference is that the set is over, regardless of the number of prescribed reps, once you reach the point of technical failure. You should then rest until you can do the next set to failure as well. You can manipulate the rest period between sets or the weight you lift to reach the ideal failure point for you.
While this can be difficult and increase your rest and recovery time, training this way is one of the best ways to ensure you maximise the opportunity for muscle growth. This is achieved through what is called, hypertrophy. Muscular hypertrophy involves increasing muscle size, typically through putting strain on the muscles and causing the body to repair them, resulting in an increase in muscle fibres. Having more muscle fibres will lead to greater strength and muscle size.
For men, this can lead to some serious gains in muscle mass. For woman, this is the same however, don’t believe what you are told, you will not grow into the hulk. Woman who train this way are not able to achieve a masculine and hulkish appearance naturally. Increasing muscle mass through training for hypertrophy can have extremely positive results and allow you to achieve a toned body, as well as build a lot of strength.
So what rep range do we need to achieve for hypertrophy?
Of the countless ways you can structure your sets, there are three basic schemes that every lifter must know. If your objective is strength or power (think: heavy lifting), the textbook advice is to perform 3 to 5 sets of 2 to 6 reps per exercise. For hypertrophy (building muscle), the sweet spot is 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps. And if your objective is muscular endurance, shoot for 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps.
If you would like more advice of how training to failure can assist you in reaching your goals, chat to one of our PTs or our team at the gym.