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What is Muscular Failure: Failing to Fail

So it’s truly time to wrap this nonsense up.  Last time I finished all the blathering and theory to address three currently in use tools to gauge intensity: RPE, RIR, RTF.  The main takeaway from that part was that they are all useful but ONLY IF someone knows what a true limit effort is.

You can’t know what an RPE 9 is if you haven’t experienced a true 10.  And you can’t know that you have 2 reps to failure/2 reps in reserve if you’ve never reached true physiological muscular failure which I define as:

The inability to complete another full repetition despite providing a maximum effort.

Muscular failure isn’t when you stop pushing.  It’s not when you decide it hurts to much.  It’s when you can’t complete a rep despite giving a maximal effort.  Yes, yes, form failure in free weight exercises adds another wrinkle.  We’ve been over this.

I finished that part by asserting that most people training have never experienced a true 10 RPE or a true set to actual physiological muscular failure.… Keep Reading

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What is Muscular Failure: The Weight Room Part 4

What is Muscular Failure: The Weight Room Part 4

Ok, slowly wrapping it up.  I had originally intended to make this the last piece but it got way too long so I’m splitting it in two.  NEXT TIME (PROMISE) I’ll put up videos demonstrating muscular failure including several of myself training.   I’ll also show you what NOT going to failure looks like, those will be videos of others.    In any case.

Last time, I finally got to the point in terms of defining actual muscular failure, stating:

Muscular failure occurs when the trainee is unable to perform another repetition despite a maximal effort being given.

With the bolded bit being what’s important.  Yes, adding the rider of “maintaining proper form” should be added to that. Bringing up the differences between complex compound exercises and machines, the issue of training status, focus, etc.   I won’t repeat that here.… Keep Reading

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What is Muscular Failure: The Weight Room Part 3

Steele Definition of Muscular Failure

And the series on what is muscular failure continues.   In the weight room part 2, I looked the issue of the Repetition Maximum (RM), defined as the maximum number of repetitions completed prior to reaching failure during a set.  In the strictest sense this means that RM should always be one repetition less than the number of reps that resulted in muscular failure.  If you failed, or would have failed, on repetition 13, then that is a 12RM.

That led into actual definitions of muscular failure.  I started with the strictest physiological definition which is the point at which muscular force output falls below muscular force requirements (noting again that this is not synonymous with exhaustion).   Once again I present my lovingly drawn image.… Keep Reading

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What is Muscular Failure: The Weight Room Part 2

DeLorme Definition of Muscular Failure

Continuing from Part 1 where I looked at the concept of muscular/task failure in general, Part 2 of what is rapidly becoming an overwritten series began looking at what muscular failure represents in the weight room specifically.    There I defined different muscle actions and types of muscular failure noting that I’d be focusing on concentric muscular failure.  I also looked at the concept of the sticking point and how it impacts on all of this.

In this part I want to continue that discussion and look at some of the actual definitions of muscular failure that have been used in the weight room over the decades.  As importantly I’ll look at what the implications of each might be in both a practical and research sense.    However, as promised in Part 2, I want to start by looking at the concept of the Repetition Maximum or RM.

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What is Muscular Failure: The Weight Room Part 1

Changes in Lever Arm During Biceps Curl

In the previous article I discussed the concept of muscular failure in a general sense.    This included a discussion of general muscular physiology and the definitions of muscular fatigue, muscular/task failure and exhaustion.    The one sentence summary of that article is as follows “Muscular/task failure occurs when the subject is unable to generate sufficient muscular force to meet or exceed the requirements of the task.”

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