During one of our sessions recently, our friend Bruce Goldstein remarked, "We should have a big sign that says Strive for Failure". It's a really good idea to have this understanding, concerning our goal of resistance exercise. What is our goal, you might ask. To get a better
idea of this, let's take a look at the definition of exercise, which is hanging on the wall inside our facility, that was used by Ken Hutchins, the inventor of SuperSlow.
"Exercise is a process whereby the body performs
work of a demanding nature, in accordance with
muscle and joint function, in a clinically-controlled
environment, within the constraints of safety,
meaningfully loading the muscular structures to
inroad their strength levels to stimulate a growth
mechanism within minimum time."
Simply put...we are trying to cause our muscles to grow. For this to happen, there needs to be a fair amount of stimulus, and this is where the idea of "Failure" comes in. Failure, in our understanding at Santa Rosa Strength, is when you cannot move the weights anymore while using good form. When we say cannot move the weights that is exactly what we mean. The only way to determine this, is if you try to move the weights when movement becomes impossible. Often when I am working with someone, they set the weight down and ask, "Was that OK?" Well...it's OK to stop...but if you want the full result of your time and effort, strive for failure. Setting the weights down because you are uncomfortable is NOT failure, so it does not meet our goal. Sometimes someone sets the weight down and says, "I felt like I didn't want to push it too far, and overwork my muscles." Reaching failure is interesting...it is very uncomfortable and will stimulate all kinds of emotions during the experience. This experience, however, is what you should ignore while you attempt to "Fail". Why? Well...first off...you will not overwork your muscles when you are working around a "minimum time" period. Overworking muscles takes a significant amount of time, and quite frankly we wont allow this, because it is unsafe. Second...what exactly happens if you push too far. Injury? It is possible to injure yourself attempting to do what we do in an unsafe fashion. Holding your breath, moving to quickly, and thrashing around in the machine while under load, all open up the possibility of injury, but failure will not. Failure is the point where your exercise session is actually safest and most productive, as opposed to the first, and easiest reps, where the muscles can still produce enough force to cause injury. Once the muscles are fatigued it becomes nearly impossible to produce an injury, despite the deep burning the last reps bring. Strive for Failure...
During the last 16 years, Steve and I have had many conversations concerning the use of the word failure, and its negative connotations. I understand how we don't like to fail. It makes us feel as if we have done something wrong. We could use clinical terms like muscle dysfunction, or momentary muscle fatigue, but I think we should rethink our use of the word failure, our emotional response to it, and our understanding of what it brings to us. In most areas of our lives we fail our way to success. If we are undaunted by the experience, we will learn and adapt, and therefore grow from the experience, while moving towards our goals. Resistance exercise is no different. We are just attempting to stimulate an adaptation in the body, which requires a significant amount of work, and is uncomfortable. It is NOT fun! It causes us to have certain feelings associated with other things that are not fun, but...you came to your appointment hoping for a result which will bring you closer to your stated goals. Strive for Failure...
I hope as you are reading this today, that you begin to think differently about the experience of failure, and what such an intense moment will bring to you. Reaching this point during exercise will effect you in many ways, and will provide a measure of Strength that will carry you through the entirety of your life, while you walk the planet in the eternal search for sustenance and happiness. The next time we work out you might hear the words, "Congratulations, You are a failure again!" When you do... you will have taken a big step on your journey towards success. Strive for Failure...