Training to Failure - Overtraining Prone & Useless? | Part 1/2 of a Research Update of 3 Popular 'Intensity Techniques'
|No deadlifts in Nóbrega's training to failure study and + there are other issues w/ the "one-legged leg extension, only"-design.|
That's not you? Well, I guess you will nevertheless be interested, whether the latest studies by Nóbrega et al. (training to failure | this part of the article) and Angleri et al. (pyramid and drop-sets | read about it in part 2 of the article) prove your gut feeling wrong, once and for all.
In this installment of this two-part review we will start with the never-ending debate about training to failure. A technique of which a 2007 review by Willardson et al. says that it "might provide the extra stimulus needed for advanced lifters to break through plateaus" (Willardson. 20017). Against that background, it appears to be logical that a cursory read of the literature suggests that there is a sign. number of studies to confirm that 'training to failure is more anabolic than shying away from failure'. A closer read of the corresponding studies, however, indicates that the hypertrophy and/or strength advantages many papers respond could well be the mere effect of an increased training volume. How's that and why's that relevant? Well, if one group of subjects stopped after 8 reps while the other did another 1-2 rep/s on almost every set, that's a 10-20% increased workout volume, which, in turn, is one of the few variables with sufficient scientific evidence that it facilitates skeletal muscle hypertrophy (Schoenfeld. 2010 & 2013).
Against that background, the results Sanmy R. Nóbrega and colleagues present in their soon-to-be-published paper in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research are all-the-more surprising. After all, their study design did not equate the volume in the four groups of untrained young men (age: 23.0 ± 3.6 years; height: 176.0 ± 0.6 cm; BMI: 24.3 ± 3.9 kg/m²) who participated in 12x2 workouts per week over the course of the 12-week experiment:
- HIRT-F and HIRT-V: Three sets of unilateral (=single leg) leg extensions at 80% of the individuals' 1-RM twice a week performed to failure (HIRT-F) or the point where the subjects stopped voluntarily (HIRT-V), respectively
- LIRT-F and LIRT-V: Three sets of unilateral (=single leg) leg extensions at 30% of the individuals' 1-RM twice a week performed to failure (LIRT-F) or the point where the subjects stopped voluntarily (LIRT-V), respectively
|Figure 1: Maximal dynamic strength (1-RM) and muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) at baseline (Pre) after 6 (6W) and 12 weeks; *Significant difference compared to Pre; †Significant difference compared to 6W (Nóbrega. 2017)|
|Figure 2: Effect of unilateral resistance training on the strength of the contralateral limb (Munn. 2004);|
last paragraph of the conclusion of Munn's meta-analysis (inset in the lower right corner).
And there's more. The scientists from the Eastern Illinois University also highlight that this intensity technique should be "incorporated periodically into short-term microcycles". Eventually, the question whether you should train to failure or not may thus be reduced to the question of when in your macrocycle will you have microcyles (4-6 weeks) of training to failure, but that's a topic for a completely different article.
- Catoire, Milène, et al. "Pronounced effects of acute endurance exercise on gene expression in resting and exercising human skeletal muscle." PloS one 7.11 (2012): e51066.
- Fimland, Marius S., et al. "Neural adaptations underlying cross-education after unilateral strength training." European journal of applied physiology 107.6 (2009): 723.
- Izquierdo, Mikel, et al. "Differential effects of strength training leading to failure versus not to failure on hormonal responses, strength, and muscle power gains." Journal of Applied Physiology 100.5 (2006): 1647-1656.
- Kannus, P., et al. "Effect of one-legged exercise on the strength, power and endurance of the contralateral leg." European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology 64.2 (1992): 117-126.
- Munn, Joanne, Robert D. Herbert, and Simon C. Gandevia. "Contralateral effects of unilateral resistance training: a meta-analysis." Journal of Applied Physiology 96.5 (2004): 1861-1866.
- Nóbrega, Sanmy R., et al. "Effect Of Resistance Training To Muscle Failure Versus Volitional Interruption At High-And Low-Intensities On Muscle Mass And Strength." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2017).
- Schoenfeld, Brad J. "The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 24.10 (2010): 2857-2872.
- Schoenfeld, Brad J. "Potential mechanisms for a role of metabolic stress in hypertrophic adaptations to resistance training." Sports medicine 43.3 (2013): 179-194.
- Stone, Michael H., et al. "Training to Muscular Failure: Is It Necessary?." Strength & Conditioning Journal 18.3 (1996): 44-48.
- Willardson, Jeffrey M. "The application of training to failure in periodized multiple-set resistance exercise programs." The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 21.2 (2007): 628-631.