Bodybuilders and strength athletes are always saying you have to train past failure to make good strength and size gains. What do they mean? There are a number of different ways of going beyond the pain barrier in order to work a muscle as much as possible, all of which take dedication and enthusiastic training, with the absolute want to make gains. The aim of a workout is to stimulate as many muscle fibres in the muscle as possible, and to do this the muscle must be trained to complete exhaustion.

Some of us think we train hard. I used to think so, but looking back that was only at a level of about 80% of how hard I train now. Even if your diet is perfect, and you take quality anabolic aids, you will not grow if you don't give it 100% in the gym. And 100% means 100%, i.e. until you physically (not psychologically) cannot do anymore.

Some bodybuilders claim they train better without a partner, but most find they need one, not only for encouragement, but to give assistance in order to do a few more reps after reaching failure on a weight.

Ways of training beyond failure are discussed below, many of which require assistance from a training partner:

Forced reps
Train to failure, then get a spot to assist you in lifting a few more reps out, but keep your form strict.

Drop sets or stripdowns
This is where you train to failure with a weight, then immediately use a lighter weight. Typically triple-drops are used, but there's no reason not to go all out sometimes and drop until hardly any weight is being lifted, going to failure on each weight.

Negative reps
Positive failure is where it is no longer possible to lift the weight. This is reached before negative failure, which is where it is no longer possible to control the negative movement of the weight. Here, after you have reached positive failure, your training partner will lift the weight, and you have to control it on the way down for a few reps.

Negative resistance reps
This is where, after positive failure, your training partner lifts the positive part of the movement and then pushes the weight down lightly and you have to try to resist the force. For example, in biceps curls, do a set until positive failure, then your partner lifts the weight up to your shoulders; he then applies some downward pressure while you attempt to keep the weight in the curled position. Be careful with these as they can cause injury - keep your form strict, only do 2-3 reps like this and only do them occasionally.

Cheat reps
Obviously, cheating should be discouraged, and try to keep perfect form on all exercises to minimise risk of injury and maximise isolation effort on the muscle. However, if you have reached failure with perfect form, cheat reps performed carefully can help you squeeze an extra few reps out and go beyond failure.

Rest-pause or extended set
I don't see many trainers using this method, but it's very simple and effective. Simply train a set to failure, put the weight down, shake off the pain, then pick the same weight up and go again, 2-3 times.

Half reps or partials
When you cannot do another full rep, do a few more with just half the movement; as this is still stimulating the muscle.

Two or more different exercises may be performed in succession with no rest in between. This may be two exercises for the same muscle group, or 2 for antagonistic muscles (I feel the latter is not very effective, as you cannot give your all for the second muscle after training the first set to failure).

In a workout, to maximise exertion on a muscle, try performing isolation exercises before compound movements. This will ensure that the muscle in question will be well worked from the isolation movement, so during the compound movement it will tire before other muscles, so is maximally worked. This principle is more appropriate for bodybuilders and not strength trainers.

Different ways of training beyond failure can be incorporated together in the same set. For example in bench pressing: Train to positive failure, followed by 2-3 forced reps with your training partner; put the weight down, and strip some weight off and go again with the same principle as a triple drop; after the last drop try banging out 10 half reps. Precede bench press by dumbbell flyes, so the isolation movement is first.

My philosophy is, it doesn't matter how you train as long as you are genuinely training to maximum effort, and you are training safely.

Do enough warm ups as needed but I think 1-2 should be enough. The listed workouts are for 1 set to failure. You can use different intensity techniques that are listed above. Don’t use more than 3 techniques per workout to avoid overtraining.

Day 1:

Full Squats - 15-20 reps

Dumbell Pullovers – 10-12 reps

Behind Neck Press - 10 reps

Chins - 10 reps

Dips - 12 reps

Barbell Curls - 10 reps

Shrugs - 15 reps

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts - 15 reps

Day Two

Deadlift (can use dumbbells, straight leg, Romanian or Rack) - 8-10 reps

Squat (low bar, power stance) – 6-10 reps

Leg Press or Hacks (feet low on platform and straight ahead) – 15-25 reps

Bench Press – 15 reps

Push Press – 8-10 reps

Pulldowns (close grip) – 8-12 reps

Shrug – 15-25 reps

Dumbbell Overhead Press

Hammer Curls – 8-15 reps

Triceps Pressdown – 12-15 reps

Day 3

One-repetition chin-up (30 seconds up, 30 seconds down) immediately followed by:

Biceps Curl – 8-12 reps

One-repetition dip (30 up, 30 down) immediately followed by:

Triceps extensions (barbell or dumbbell) – 8-12 reps

Leg press – 20 reps

Calf Raise – 25-30 reps

Lateral Raise with dumbbells – 12-15 reps

Shoulder Press (barbell or dumbbells) – 20 reps

Row (barbell or seated or machine) – 12-15 reps

Bench Press ( dumbbells on decline or incline bench) – 8-12 reps

At the end of every workout do:

Crunches on ball ( 4 sets to failure with 20 secs rest between sets)

Do 20-35 minutes of cardio on alternating days that you train

BROMALAINE (digestive enzyme for protein)

If you do not have any MRP (meal replacement powders) make your own with protein powder, peanut butter and ground oatmeal.


Big Bowl Favorite Cereal
Skim milk
Protein Shake (40-60g protein) - Separate
Fill half the bowl with cereal
Add milk until it reaches top of cereal (not too much)
Add yogurt
Fill rest of plate with cereal
Add more milk
Cover cereal with honey
Eat up, and don't be afraid to go for seconds.
Protein Pancakes
1 cup of Oatmeal
11 egg whites
1 whole egg
1 packet of sugar free jello
Stir together in a mixing bowl
Cook on a frying pan
(49gP, 54gC, 6gF)
Chicken Burger
300g Chicken Breast
400g Turkish Bread
Lemon Pepper
Cook Chicken Breast
Cut Turkish Bread in half
Put Mayonnaise on Bread
After Chicken is cooked Place on bottom half of Bread
Place Cheese on top of Chicken
Add Lettuce and Tomatoes
Before closing the topside of the Bread add Lemon Pepper.
Tuna Patties
1 can tuna
1 onion
tablespoon of salt
οΏ½ teaspoon of pepper
οΏ½ teaspoon of parsley
3 medium potatoes (boiled and mashed)
1 tablespoon of Butter
Mix potatoes, tuna, Onions, Slat, Pepper and Parsley.
Make into Patties
Fry in butter until brown and heated on both sides
Serve with veggies or salad
4 whole eggs
4 egg whites
2 cups of cooked rice
Half a block of cheese/cottage cheese (melted)
Cook up, mix all together, enjoy.
Chicken Breast
Some Chunky Tomatoes
Spicy Chili Beans
οΏ½ onion (chopped)
Cut Chicken Breast into skillets
Cook Chicken Breast and Onions
Stir in Tomatoes and Chili Beans
Cook uncovered for a further 10 minutes
Serve and sprinkle with Low Fat Cheese
After Workout
500ml of milk
2 eggs
200g low fat yogurt
1-cup oats
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
3 tablespoons of honey
2 bananas
1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil
2 serves of protein powder (40g)
Everything you need plus more.
After Workout
2 scoops of you protein powder
3 tablespoons of cottage cheese
1 serve of low fat yogurt
For a change to your usual shake
Before Bed
Protein powder shake
Protein powder (40g Protein all up)
Ice Cream
Either blend all together into a thick shake or have the ice-cream separate.
Tuna Cheese
1 can of tuna
1 serve of cottage cheese
Mix together and eat
Provides an easy way to get the tuna down and doesn't taste to bad either