Think back over your most recent year of training. How many times have you failed a lift in the gym? Probably more times than you would have liked. I understand it, you're just pushing the limits trying to grow stronger. What if I was to tell you your efforts resulting in failure were actually hindering your progress and raising your risk for injury? Doesn't sound like something I'd be doing much of if I was looking to have longevity in lifting
Unfortunately too many people push the limits too often. Failing lifts causes many negative reactions, including but not limited to
- Increased risk for injury
- Decreased confidence levels
- Decreased recovery capabilities
- Reinforcement of poor technique
When you fail a lift, one of two things happens. Either your form breaks down to the point where you just can't handle the weight any longer, or, you retain good form but just aren't strong enough to push through yet. Often times it's the first, and that is the scenario where injury occurs. If you go for a max triple squat and go down with that 3rd rep, maybe you come out unscathed, but what if you go down hard and tear an ACL? Was that 3rd rep in only training really worth the risk? I say no every single time.
That doesn't mean you should baby yourself and never take risks, what I'm saying is be smart about your weight selection. Don't pull numbers out of your ass. Analyze your training and have another coach to consult with on your numbers selection. Not only that but always make sure you have spotters on hand to prevent a fail from becoming much worse. A good rule of thumb is to simply stop a set after form starts breaking down. Practice perfect reps
Failing also kills confidence. Even if you think you're a tough guy and tell yourself failing lifts doesn't bother you, I know deep down it really does. Nobody likes failing. Easy solution, just don't. You know the weight your body can handle based off intuitive sense. You know by warming up what you're capable of on a given day. You'd be amazed at the level of confidence you can obtain from always being successful. When failing isn't in your vocabulary you forget how to fail.
I always bring this example up, and it's not to toot my own horn, but I have not went down with a squat bar on my back in 2 years now. I bring this up because no matter what weight I have on that bar now, I know I am capable of squatting it because I forgot how to fail. I always come up with it, that's all I've known for 2 years straight now. When you breed confidence for that long you get strong real fast. All the greatest athletes of the world display the most confidence in their abilities
Another downside to failing is the hindered recovery capabilities. It is already hard enough to recover from a brutal high intensity squat session, when you fail a lift your nervous system and muscular system are strained to the absolute max of your abilities, this fries the central nervous system and recovery will become even longer. I utilize a lot of high frequency programming with my athletes and could you imagine if they were failing lifts every session trying to squat or bench 3x a week? They would be down and out the very first week! You don't grow stronger in the gym, you only break yourself down. Stimulate don't annihilate are words to live by. Leave that extra rep in the tank and you'll still get great training in but also cut down your recovery time
Technique is everything in lifting. The most underrated trait to have. It is what allows lightweight lifters to put up just as much weight as the big guys. There is a lot to be said about the proper biomechanics of a lift. Increased force production, decreased risk of injury, less opportunities to leak strength. You can tell if someone is biomechanically efficient just by watching them lift. They rarely grind lifts, every rep looks the same, all the joints are always properly aligned.
The only way to ingrain perfect technique is do do reps after reps after reps of perfect form. Warm ups through working sets. Every rep you mess up you start back over. Like the saying goes to become a master in something you need to practice that thing 10,000 times perfectly. Just like a baseball swing. Some guys have prettier swings than others and those are the guys slamming dingers and getting on base. When a baseball player goes into a "slump" as they call it, or a period where they don't hit very well, it is a result of letting a few bad swings change the mechanics of their entire approach. They need to practice perfect swings again until they get their mechanics back. Same goes for lifting, failing only breeds those bad mechanics
If that isn't enough reason to stop failing lifts I don't know what is! Just because you didn't push yourself to the limit doesn't mean you didn't maximize your potential strength gain in the gym. Lifters need to get that thought out of their head. You maximize your strength potential by pushing yourself within reason, and stopping sets once the reps start going to garbage
Start lifting smart and you'll see those benefits of additional newfound confidence, better recovery out of the gym, perfect technique, and decreased injury potential. Not only this but you'll see your performance at meets skyrocket as well!
A quick word on powerlifting meets. There is no need to push the envelope every single meet. It is good to have a realistic goal but just because you thought you could do more doesn't mean you should have. There are plenty of meets in the future, but only if you remain injury free. You will eventually hit the numbers you want, you will continue to get stronger. Pushing yourself beyond your limits just because you're at a meet and injuring yourself badly is just plain stupid. Remember there is always another meet, but only if you're still walking
It helps to have a coaches eye! If you'd like to join Team Big Benchas and sign on for our online coaching program, I will personally assure that I will have you stop failing lifts so you can obtain all the benefits mentioned above. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org