When you’re training for strength or you’ve been seriously training for less than a year, you should build your strength in the gym, not test it. By that I mean: Don’t max out or train to failure all the time, instead leave 1 or 2 reps left in the tank.
This is general advice that is applicable to the vast majority of people. Like always, there are exceptions to every rule but the average gym go-er isn’t one of them. Always leave 1 or 2 reps left in the tank, atleast on your compound movements.
The two issues that we are dealing with are:
- Motor Unit Learning
1. Motor Unit Learning
It can be a motor unit learning issue because at the end of your set, training those really slow grinder reps, you can train some poor motor patterns and poor technique, particularly when your form starts to degradate like you see very often in the gym.
The people that are pushing out the last rep on a bench press with one foot up, shifting upper body, and the barbell with one side higher than the other.
This is not the biggest concern however, much rather a secundary concern.
What you will primarily will find is that it is a recovery issue. Grinding out very slow reps and missing reps can tap into you recovery. The stress it puts on your Central Nervous System (CNS) and your Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) to miss a big heavy lift is enormous. We are talking about lifts like the squat, deadlift (this is the biggest one), bench press or even push presses.
What will happen if you are training in a high frequency, which a lot of you are if you are trying to make really good strength gains, and you miss a rep, your strength is going to go down your next session. You come back in 48 hours and all of a sudden your lifts are going down 5 to 10 kilograms (15-25 pounds). You are going to have to train lighter accordingly because both nervous system are fatigued which can take multiple days to recover from.
When you get stronger overtime, missing a lift is a lot more taxing on your body and beat up your recovery. This can mean that you will have to take an extra day off from training that week which in turn will give you less progress that week. If you’re on a roll and you start hitting PR (Personal Record) after PR, the last thing you want is to take an extra day off.
If you were to take all your sets to failure and missing reps, you will find that you need extra days off in order to adapt and recover.
Some people will make the argument:
Well, it is worth it for the extra growth and gains
Doing a rep that you miss, you don’t get a possible adaptation from that.
You got a good adaptation from the rep you did before the one you missed because you probably really pushed yourself while maintaining good form. That one rep did help you grow but the rep that you missed, didn’t do anything positive for you. You simply didn’t recruit enough muscle units for it, didn’t get any possible adaptive stress from it, and all you did was beat up your recovery.
You want to stimulate your body, recover and come back stronger the next session to hit new PR’s in a burst, not miss reps that will cause you to fall back.
- You can train some poor motor patterns and poor technique by grinding out slow reps.
- Doing a rep that you miss, you don’t get a possible strength or growth adaptation from that.
- Missing a rep stresses your CNS and PNS enormously.
- Expect a loss of 5-10kg on your lifts the next training session
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