On December 2nd of last year, I posted the last part in a long series I had written about the idea of training to muscular failure. What it represented physiologically and practically. In that final piece, titled Failure to Fail I put up a bunch of videos as a demonstration.
A fair number of them were of me showing what training to true failure is in terms of how rep speeds change and the effort involved. In a few cases a set that started with a roughly 1 second or less rep ended with a final grinder at 4-7 seconds or thereabouts.
I put up videos of some other folks as well. Vicky Mirceta, my powerlifter Sumi Singh. And some random guy back squatting to failure to show what that looks like. Since I doubt most of the people training have ever seen it done deliberately and they sure as shit haven’t done it themselves.
Finally I put up some video showing what failing to fail means. The first was a set by Brad Schoenfeld where he basically gave up after a half-assed set of pulldowns. The second was Mike Israetel taking a trainee through a high rep set of leg presses that, while I’m sure it was hard, was nowhere close to failure. The movement speed of the sled never slowed across 30 reps.
Finally, I showed a video of Mike Israetel taking someone through a chest, shoulders, triceps workout although I only showed the bench press. In the set the lifter does 11 reps, none of them looking effortful at all before racking the bar, with the bar speed unchanging from set 1 until “failure”. Mike then asserts that this is a 0RIR set. It was barely a warm-up set. Maybe a decent speed set. But 0 RIR? Bullshit.
I ended the piece with a challenge to people, describing how they should attempt to go to true failure. As a bonus challenge, I suggested going to that level of failure, resting 60-90 seconds and doing it again. Just to prove what bullshit these 8X10RM/1′ or 90 seconds workouts being described in these studies are.
I finished by asking the question:
Are you really gonna let Lyle McDonald train
harder than you, you fucking pansy?
I told people to step up or shut up. To show that they can train to the level I demonstrated or not.
And to show me, send me the video or whatever.
I mean seriously, guys, you all want me to shut the fuck up? I’ve told you exactly how to do it.
And yet everybody seems to be real quiet after I do.
Who Stepped Up?
Because the answer to the question “Are you going to let Lyle McDonald train harder than you, you fucking pansy?” is apparently yes.
In the 2 months since I ran that piece, exactly 2 people stepped up to show me video, both in my Facebook group. TWO. Come the fuck on you big babies. If Israetel’s workout videos can get tens of thousands of views, more than 2 of you can step to me. Or I guess you can’t. Or won’t. Because doing that would mean admitting I’m right when you invariably fail my challenge.
Excuses are always easier aren’t they? That and bullshit Instagram memes seems to be what the industry runs on these days. If people put as much energy into stepping up their game as they do to making excuses, they wouldn’t have to make the excuses in the first place.
Although, a couple of days ago, in what stimulated me to go ahead and get this piece done someone sort of tried to step up but, well….I’m getting ahead of myself. Just hold on until the end for some true hilarity.
In any case, this is just another video collection since I have nothing more to add regarding the issue of failure. I said in the previous piece that I’d showcase anybody who had the guts to step up so here we are. Those whopping two people get first billing.
Related: What Is Momentary Muscular Failure?
Josh Bradford DB Bench
First up is Josh Bradford (or Josh Bradshaw I’m no longer sure which is correct and use both in the video because I suck), a member of my Facebook group demonstrating a DB bench press
So this is a true set to failure. As with, if memory serves, my own set of Hammer Inclines, the final rep took a grinder of 7 seconds and barely locked out. He also maintained his form extremely well which shows that it can be done with free weights. Most can’t do it. But it can be done with years of dedicated practice. Clearly Josh has put in the time.
Marek Behrendt Overhead Press
Next up is Marek Behrendt, another member of my Facebook group performing a barbell overhead press.
So another 7 second final rep and no way would he have gotten another. Certainly he’s a little bit more wobbly technically but that’s the nature of the movement I guess. Wouldn’t be as bad in a seated OHP I suspect. He still gets the final rep without doing any goofy layback shit or cheating massively.
That’s what true muscular failure looks like. Or rather the next rep would have been guaranteed failure.
Vicky Mirceta Paused Leg Press
While she didn’t really have to “step up” in that I had shown one of her videos previously, Vicky Mirceta did put up another good example of what I’m talking about. Specifically this is her doing a brutal set of dead pause leg presses.
So here the rep speed starts at about 1.5 seconds before finishing at 3.33, over a doubling. This is one of those places that she might have truly ground out another rep or she might not have. But it’s not really safe on a leg press unless you wanna get crushed. But compare this, for example, to the video of Mike Israetel’s trainee doing leg presses. Where over 30 repetitions the sled doesn’t slow a bit.
A Mid-Article Summary
So the above videos yet again demonstrate what failure actually is and where it lives yet again. What you clearly see is a drop in rep speed leading to a final grinder of a rep. That’s true muscular failure. Not just giving up because it’s hard. True muscular failure in the sense that you couldn’t complete another full repetition regardless of how much effort you gave.
Now, since most people didn’t step up to my challenge, or if they did they didn’t send me links or video, I wanted to pull some other video for illustration. And I figured I’d go to one of the all time greats of the sport.
Dorian Yates Trains Legs
Dorian Yates was known for his training intensity and, to a degree, followed the HIT ideas of Jones, Mentzer, etc. Typically he did multiple warm-ups to one all out set to failure. So I went and found one of his leg workout videos and pulled sets of three exercises.
First up, leg extensions.
What you see is that his reps start pretty quickly, about 1.25 seconds and stay there for the first bunch of reps. With 2 RIR the rep starts to slow, dropping to 2 seconds. It goes up to 2.9 seconds with 1 RIR and then 3.66 seconds on the final rep, roughly three times as long as the first rep.
Now, the presence of a spotter does make this one a bit tougher in terms of comparison. It looks like he was giving just enough help to lock out but I realize that that might throw the rep times a bit. Thing is, if he were helping more, I’d have expected faster reps. And they certainly were slower.
Next up is the 1-leg hamstring curl on the ham tractor.
So what you see is that the first bunch of reps is just under a second or thereabouts and it doesn’t really slow until the last 2. With 1 RIR the rep speed drops to 2 seconds before finishing at 3.5 seconds with a little help from the same spotter. So again the rep duration more than triples from the first to last rep.
Finally the lying leg curl.
The first bunch of reps are all a second or less. At 2 RIR it starts to slow with the rep taking 2.4 seconds to finish. With 1 RIR it goes to 3.4 seconds with a little bit of help. And the final rep is a grinder at 4.25 seconds, again with a little bit of a spot.
So in all 3 cases we see what actual failure looks like. The first bunch of reps go pretty fast and are about the same and, for Dorian at least, about 2-3 reps out it starts to slow. And then the last rep is a grinder and he’s done with the repetition duration doubling or tripling from where it started.
Which brings me to the video that got me off my butt to get this written.
Mike Israetel Seated Leg Curl
So next up is the video that stimulated me to actually get this piece done. On either Jan 31st or Feb 1st Mike Israetel posted one of his interminable leg workouts (who watches these?) and within the first two minutes “called me out” after a set of seated leg curls. So I pulled the video so I could analyze it in the same way as all of the other videos.
Now the editing on their video is abysmal. I don’t know what rep he started on and half the time you can’t even see his legs. So I’m having to do a bit of guessing on the start and end of the reps. So of all the videos the times may be the least accurate. It doesn’t really change the observation and you’ll see why that’s both important and hilarious.
So that’s where the 80 trillion RIR thing comes from. Mike stumbles from the machine theatrically to make that set look hard and then attempts to make a joke. And honestly that joke was the most failure I saw in this clip.
Then his training partner says the only correct thing which is “Mike doesn’t know how to train to failure.” Yes, he’s saying it sarcastically. He just happens to be completely correct. Mike doesn’t know.
Now I wouldn’t say that Mike is “living a lie”. But he is deceiving the people watching his videos. He is telling them this is 0 RIR and it’s not. And they don’t have his drugs to make this kind of shit work.
Now trust me when I say that I do not go out of my way to watch this shit, I have far better things to watch. Rather, people send this shit to me and it’s always the same when it comes to Mike’s training videos. It’s all this light pumper bullshit where he gets nowhere close to failure despite saying it’s 0-1 RIR. The video is incontrovertible in every way. Observationally, physiologically, scientifically this set was not to failure despite Mike’s posturing.
To that I’d add that while he may not be living a lie, Mike is PERPETRATING a lie. Which is that this kind of training works without the drugs he’s on. The drugs he tends to downplay because steroid users ALWAYS downplay how much the drugs are doing. And yes, this shit works when you can just let the drugs do the work. And doesn’t when you don’t. That’s the lie.
Analyzing the Set
Because what did we just see? Every rep was about 0.8 to 1 second at least within the realm of what I could see with the shitty video editing. You can barely see some of the reps and I don’t know if they did it to make it harder for me to analyze it or what.
And while I’m sure I missed a few frames here and there, the way I do this is that each frame is 1/60th of a second. So I have to miss a lot for it to add up to much time wise. There’s also that weird rep in the middle where they did a jump cut or something and I couldn’t time it.
But it doesn’t change anything because the first few and last few reps are clear as day. The first rep and the last rep of the set are the same speeds. It had the same effort which was Mike trying to look like he was trying to work hard.
Now don’t get me wrong, was it a challenging set? Sure. I got the same intensity out of the 35 year old women I trained back in the day. And his training partner going herp de derp “Mike doesn’t know how to train to failure” was 100% right even if he was trying to be funny.
Because that set wasn’t to failure and no amount of posturing or telling me “Fuck you Lyle” changes the video proof. That’s not 0 RIR because it didn’t slow down anywhere in the movement. Mike choose to stop and nothing more.
So yeah, Mike, I do have something to say but only because you named checked me. And we can go back and forth on this all day long. But if you keep putting up these mediocre effort sets I’ll be happy to keep showing that you’re not hitting failure.
What you think is 0-1 RIR isn’t. Now maybe you would have failed on the next rep but we’ll never know because you won’t push yourself that hard. And the only reason my 35 year old women didn’t get your results is because they don’t have your “Special Sports Supplements” to make this kind of training work.
Tried to Step Up, Got Served
So I guess what Mike was trying to do was step up to me and show me that I was wrong. But all he did was prove my point. The only failure in that clip was his complete failure to prove me wrong.
The rep speed never changed. The effort in his face never changed. He didn’t hit failure. He wasn’t close.
Just like in the leg press video of his trainee where the rep speed across 30 reps never slowed. Where the rep speed in that bench press video, across 11 reps, never went above 1 second. Which Mike then said is 0 RIR. And it’s clearly not.
And it’s easy to see. Compare it to the first video I put up, compare it to the earlier videos in this article. Compare it to Dorian’s videos. The difference is palpable and obvious. And it’s not arguable.
We don’t get to argue about when muscular failure is or what happens. The research says that rep speed slows as you get closer to failure. And the rep speed never slows in Mike’s sets. Or his trainee’s. It’s that simple. It really is.
So Mike, you can get all petulant and posture at me if you want. And it’s a good thing you surround yourself with training partners who don’t know what failure is either. Who can kiss your ass and tell you you pwned Lyle. The one guy who says “Mike doesn’t know what failure is” well…that’s the truest statement I’ve heard in a while even if he was trying to be sarcastic (and failing),
Mike doesn’t know what failure is and the videos I’ve already put up show it. If you still don’t believe me, compare the mediocre effort above to the next video I want to put up.
A Handsome Devil Doing Lying Leg Curls to Failure
So the next to last video I want to put up is one of a handsome devil (I know him well) doing a set of lying leg curls to actual muscular failure. Let’s take a look.
So that was me demonstrating a set of lying leg curls to true failure. Compare and contrast that to Mike’s video. The rep speed on his set never slowed. The one one mine slowed, rather abruptly admittedly, from about 1 second to over four seconds for the last completed repetition. Then I went for another and pulled for 5.75 seconds and that was the failure rep.
That’s what muscular failure looks like. And what Mike did isn’t. Clearly I couldn’t have done 80 BILLION MORE REPS (herp de derp). I couldn’t have done even one more because I failed to complete the last one.
Let’s go Head to Head
So for shit’s and giggles, I wanna show a side by side comparison of some of Mike’s reps to some mine. I didn’t do the full set because it would be too long and boring. It’s not like I could match them up given how badly his videos are edited to begin with. Someone at RPS needs Ritalin.
So what I did was I took only the concentric reps (his last 5, I didn’t cherry pick) because that’s all I’m interested in. It’s the concentric slowing down that defines failure which is why that’s the only part I time. And I compared them to mine. Well one of mine.
So..let’s take a look.
So what did we just see? Mike’s 5 final repetitions which were all one second or less were completed in the same time (or slightly less) than it took me to complete my final repetition.
Let me say that again: Mike completed his final 5 reps in the time it took me to complete ONE.
And I don’t know what can better demonstrate my point. It’s as clear as day for anyone with eyes.
What Mike thinks is 0RIR is not. Not in the least.
And even more importantly, what Mike is telling people is 0 RIR is not.
Because you know what, if Mike wants to train like this because he’s got the drugs to make it work, more power to him. But he’s misleading people. He’s deceiving people. Because as soon as he tells them that this is 0 RIR and to stay 3 reps away from that, they end up at 6,7,8,9 RIR. Because Mike’s demonstration of “failure” isn’t anywhere close. Because he doesn’t seem to know what it actually represents.
And that’s my bigger problem with this.
Mike, I honestly don’t give a fuck what you do in your own training. Take all your special sports supplements and pump it up with your training buddies and that’s fucking fantastic.
But I give a fuck what you’re telling people. Because what you’re telling them is provably wrong.
You can flip me off and tell me “Fuck you” all you want. It doesn’t bother me because the videos prove my point. I’m right and you’re wrong.
Because the only people getting fucked here are the people watching your videos and trusting what you’re telling them. Because what you’re telling them is wrong. And they don’t have your drugs to make it work.
The videos don’t lie. Mike’s reps don’t change speed at all throughout the set. Mine drops from 1 second to over 4 seconds. And that’s true of every video I’ve shown. Whatever the initial rep speed, at failure the duration is double triple or MORE.
Mike, you do not know what 0 RIR is. So rather than being all butthurt over me for pointing it out, go take a fucking refresher course. Or just get someone to take you through a proper set to limits so you’ll learn what 0 RIR is. Because you’re not hitting it. Your training partners aren’t hitting it. And your combined butthurtedness doesn’t change that.
I’m not saying you’re not working hard because you do a billion sets. But that’s why you can do all of this Maximal Recoverable Volume (MRV) bullshit, all your sets are grossly submaximal. You couldn’t do as many if you were anywhere close to failure.
So Fuck Me?
So Mike…fuck me? Yes. Fuck me for hurting your feelings. Fuck me for being right. Fuck me for having the audacity (apparently) for pointing out that you don’t know what 0 RIR or failure is when no-one else has the balls to tell you you’re full of shit. And anyone can look at the videos of myself or anybody else I’ve put up and compare them to yours and see that.
This isn’t us arguing words back and forth where you can talk in circles like without saying anything like in that debate. The videos are proof. Anybody with eyes can look at them and see the difference in terms of effort and speed of movement. Well I guess except for your bootlicker training partners who are just as clueless as you are.
It’s not debatable.
So if you want to step up and pwn me, you’re gonna have to bring more than this weaksaurce bullshit.
Show me, Mike.
Show me you can take a set to that level of grinder that barely completes that takes 4-5 seconds and I’ll be happy to acknowledge it. I will put up another video going “Hey, Mike did it.”
But so far I haven’t seen it…and I don’t think I will.
And here’s why I don’t think I will. If Mike were to put up a video of him actually working to 0 RIR or failure, he would have to acknowledge that every one of his previous videos was bullshit.
And his ego simply can’t handle that. Mike, like most in this industry would rather keep maintaining his wrongness than admit he was wrong. Especially to me.
And while I’m sure Mike going “Fuck you, Lyle” will mean something to some, the video evidence is incontrovertible that I’m right and he’s not close to failure.
And that’s the truth.
Failing to Fail
So that wraps up the followup to the last piece on training to failure. Exactly two people stepped up to demonstrate that they could go to failure. Well Mike tried, I guess. And all he did was fail yet again to show that he knows what 0 RIR or muscular failure is, his macho posturing notwithstanding. His idiot training partners also notwithstanding. They don’t have any more of a clue than he does.
Because if he thinks flipping me off and telling me to fuck off affects me, he’s wrong.
The video is all the proof I need.
If anybody else wants to step up to my challenge, if any of the tens of thousands of people who watched Mike’s video and thinks he owned me cuz he said “Fuck you, Lyle” wants to step up, send me a good video of you doing an exercise to what I’ve demonstrated. I mean a good video, don’t edit it like the RPS guys so you can’t see shit. Set up a camera and actually show the fucking set.
But seriously send me the link. I’ll be happy to run another of these to show that other folks out there can go to true failure and train even as hard (or harder) than I can. And that includes Mike. Send me the video and I’ll put it up. But it’s clear that he either won’t or simply can’t do what I’m talking about. Because every video he shows, including the one on which he tried to own me, all he did was fail to fail.
Fuck me, indeed.