Effective strength training doesn’t need to take a long time, but it is best to perform each set to positive failure, and it’s important to engage every type of muscle fiber too. Last week, we kicked off our 5 part series about strength training to failure for our Smart Fit Method 101 series.
Here’s what we’ve covered so far:
1. Scientific support for one set to failure: Doing many reps is not necessary when building strength, but going to positive failure is important. This is why we use one set that takes between 60 seconds to 2.5 minutes to complete. In this time we recruit each type of muscle fiber from slow to fast and completely deplete the muscle for more strength gains, fat loss, and better bone density.
2. Understanding muscle fiber types: Muscles consist of slow twitch, intermediate, and fast twitch muscle fibers. Each type of muscle fiber has a different fatigue rate. Slow twitch muscle fibers fatigue slowly, providing endurance, while fast twitch fibers fatigue quickly but are more powerful. Since recruiting fast twitch muscles during workouts depletes glycogen stores, this prevents excess energy from being stored as fat. Efficiently and effectively recruiting all muscle fibers to positive failure during a workout produces the best results, aka you get stronger while burning fat and building bone density.
3. Importance of recovery: You need to take recovery time, otherwise strength training is not going to be effective. Slow twitch recovers fast (in about 90 seconds), whereas fast-twitch takes a minimum of 4 days. This is partly because back in the day, as hunter-gatherers, we only used fast-twitch to escape emergency situations. Have you every gone for a sprint and felt it for days?
4. Preventing sarcopenia: Strength training, especially as one ages, is essential to prevent sarcopenia (muscle loss) and concerns like osteoporosis. Building muscle helps prevent losing muscle.
To learn more about the science and history behind our series on training to failure, we recommend the book Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week by John Little and Doug McGuff.
Happy strength training!