One of the most common training misconceptions we encounter is the belief that progress occurs by training to failure.
There are countless articles, and endless conversations, in gyms about this topic. This is most often how someone is exposed to the concept.
Training to failure typically refers to physical failure, which is training until you can’t physically complete another rep. Technical failure is stopping your training when you believe your technique has started to fail.
Although training to technical failure is generally safer than training to physical failure, at No Limits Fitness we avoid both of these. We recognize that training to failure can produce results, but this is an incredibly short term approach that rarely allows for long term consistency.
This post will discuss the 3 reasons you should never train to failure.
As coaches, our first responsibility is to do no harm. If you’re wondering why we prescribe burpees if we don’t want to do harm…
Burpees are entertaining, and most of us will defend the fact that they’re really good for you. But mainly it’s just for our entertainment.
Coaches don’t want to see anyone get hurt, and injuries can be one of the biggest obstacles for our progress. Besides Netflix.
When people begin learning more challenging exercises and using heavier loads, the risk vs. reward works against us when we push ever closer to failure.
The “smash your face on the wall because more is better” training attitude has become incredibly popular. This way of thinking tends to overlook the fact that you could win a limbo contest with the crappy form needed to get through the workout.
Learning to stop your training with a little left in the tank keeps us safe and allows our progress to continue. Long term consistency wins out over one more rep every day of the week.
We like to use a Rating of Perceived Exertion scale to help guide our training, instead of seeking failure.
Psychology of Training
In many areas of life, failure is often an opportunity to learn. With our nutrition, one of our favorite quotes is “feedback not failure”. This approach acknowledges that we will make mistakes, and this is part of the learning process.
There are many examples of how learning from our failures results in our biggest growth or progression. But that doesn’t mean that failure is always a good thing…especially if we don’t learn or benefit from the failure.
The majority of people internalize physical failure, and this quickly wakes up the Hater in your Head. Enter the negative thoughts between your ears, and suddenly your thoughts on training take a detour for the worse.
There will always be a time and place to push the intensity. Usually this is reserved for competition or an event…not in your regular training. If you typically “take your training to the max” and fail, you’ll likely do just that when it matters most.
Our bodies need time to recover to fully receive the benefits from our training. Constantly pushing our bodies to the limit has a cumulative effect on the next set, the next workout, and our life.
Training and recovery are both tools in our tool box. If you only employ the hammer (training), you’ll eventually get smashed.
Inadequate recovery from lack of sleep, nutrition, and excess stress can result in an accumulation of fatigue which digs the hole that buries our process.
Over time, this also increases the likelihood of injury.
Hopefully this helps you realize that training to failure isn’t the best course of action.
Many of the world’s most respected strength coaches believe that training to failure is simply training your body to fail under stress.
What are your training goals? Do you receive an endorsement contract for that next rep? If not, the risk vs. reward might not be in your best interest.
Marathon runners gradually build up their training levels, but they never run 35 miles just to make 26 miles seem easier.
Train to improve…never train to fail.