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How do you train "hard" without training to failure?

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  • How do you train "hard" without training to failure?

    I have always done medium to lower volume routine taking all work sets to "positive failure". I recently started training with john meadows doing mountain dog training, and I trust him 100%, but his style of training is different than what I am used. As most know, his training is high volume and he says majority of worksets are not taken to failure.

    Since doing his routine I always feel like when I leave the gym that I didn't work hard enough because I am not taking all the work sets to failure. I've also noticed my apetite has gone down since starting his routine.

    I know that training balls to the wall is the way to gain muscle and you should always train hard in the gym, but how do you do this when your not taking your sets to failure?

  • #2
    High reps (20-30) with heavy weight but not necessarily taken to failure.
    Minimal rest periods.
    Supersets/Giant Sets.
    Speed & Explosiveness work - Submaximal weight (in fact more like 50-60% of max) but with 100% force applied done in a low rep range, not taken to failure, many sets with minimal rest

    With these methods, and I'm sure there are more ways that I'm not thinking of, you can hit it pretty hard without necessarily taking your sets to failure.
    Last edited by moco; 09-29-2012, 04:55 PM.


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    • #3
      hey man i used to take most of my sets to failure to but the way I like to do things now is take more of my sets to CONSTANT TENSION FAILURE and then, like J.M. suggests, take only a few sets to ABSOLUTE FAILURE.

      When I take a set to "constant tension failure" I essentially terminate the set when constant tension stops/my form breaks down. So normally I might be doing incline dumbbell press and Ill bang out 7 reps but then I'll lock out that 7th and then pause for a sec and go for an 8th, then maybe lock it out again and go for a 9th (a real grinder). But what I do now is basically don't lock out my reps (keep constant tension on chest) and as soon as I feel like I have to lock out and pause to continue repping the weight, I stop the set.

      IMO the target muscle should be the weak link in the set when performing the exercise. I'm less focused on cranking out a specific number of reps and more focused on causing trauma to the target muscle. After all, reps are just one of many variables that factor into muscle trauma. I've found since employing this technique, and only saving those "pause, then grind a rep or 2 out" for only my last set on an exercise maybe keeps me WAY fresher and helps take my ego out of the lifting. Also I'm currently on pretty low calories and yet I still am making progress.

      Just my 2 cents. Going to absolute failure has its place but once your past the beginner stage and your using more moderate weights (coupled with stress/a busy lifestyle) going to failure all the time will wipe out the CNS. I think of the CNS as my body's tank of gasoline - every time I grind out reps (this is essentially performing a rest-pause set) or employ intensity techniques (such as dropsets, very slow eccentrics, etc), it takes some gas out of the tank. And the only way to fill the tank back up is by resting/eating.

      So you have to find a balance between depleting the tank by training hardcore and setting PRs but also refilling the tank and recovering from the workouts.

      Just my 2 cents

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      • #4
        An example of a progression

        Barbell curls

        Week 1:

        x lbs for 10 reps (constant tension throughout the set)
        x lbs for 10 reps (constant tension throughout the set)
        x lbs for 10 reps (constant tension until rep 7, then paused and grinded out the last 3)


        Next week:

        x lbs for 10 reps (constant tension throughout the set)
        x lbs for 10 reps (constant tension throughout the set)
        x lbs for 10 reps (constant tension until rep 9, then paused and grinded out the last 1)


        So the actual amount of tonnage didn't change from week 1 to week 2 (same amount of weight for same sets and reps), BUT, you were able to maintain constant tension for longer in week 2. Remember, if you do the same weight but you are able to do it easier/under more control, that is still PROGRESSION!!!

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        • #5
          Wouldn't this be a good question for John, via email?

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          • #6
            yea via email would be appropriate...and this would be the first time I have heard my programs are too easy....something is not right here..

            JM
            John Meadows
            CSCS, CISSN
            Creator of the Mountain Dog Diet
            www.mountaindogdiet.com

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            • #7
              Originally posted by mountaindog1 View Post
              yea via email would be appropriate...and this would be the first time I have heard my programs are too easy....something is not right here..

              JM
              Time to kick a little ass!!!

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              • #8
                If it's too easy then my best guess is it's due to your weight selection.

                I am doing one of his programs and can tell you I am VERY close to failure on almost every set, and failing damn near at the recommended rep number on the deeper sets of each movement. Ie sets 3 and 4 of a 4 set movement I am failing.

                I just can't imagine anyone thinking it is easy, if you are doing everything correctly(ie weight selection, rest periods, listening to his cues, etc), and giving it everything you have. I mean even "arms" which coming from more powerlifting training, I think is kinda a "sissy" day(lol), exhausts me.

                Which program are you doing?
                Last edited by Imprezivr6; 09-29-2012, 09:16 PM.

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                • #9
                  Failure = momentary muscular failure, ie you can't complete the rep. You can do hard sets without going that far...
                  PM me to discuss website/video/dvd etc. related work.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by mountaindog1 View Post
                    yea via email would be appropriate...and this would be the first time I have heard my programs are too easy....something is not right here..

                    JM
                    I concur...I have nightmares about your leg day. Any program that makes Dave Tate throw up could never be an easy one...lol.
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