Looking to get more results from your weight lifting sessions? Try doing what I call “bonus reps” or “failure sets”. Basically, when you attempt a set on any weight training exercise the idea should be to work the targeted muscle group to the point of failure. Now why do we work to failure? Because the whole point of lifting a weight is to break down the muscle tissue. The more weight you lift and the more times you lift it, the more the tissue is broken down. During your rest and recovery time that muscle tissue heals (or more accurately rebuilds). And when it does, it comes back denser, larger, and stronger than it was before the workout. That is how muscle is built. You tear it down, and then it builds back up. You can greatly enhance the healing process and shorten the rest time with proper nutrition, water intake, ect.
One day I was watching the old Arnold documentary “Pumping Iron”. A true masterpiece by the way. So Arnold was basically talking about the most important part of any set is the moment you start to feel the burn to the moment you complete the set. So the repetitions you complete after the burning sensation kicks in are the most essential, that’s where all your progress is made, that’s where you’re tearing the muscle fibers down the most. So with every set you should be trying to get as many reps as you can, after the burn kicks in. Many times I don’t even count my reps until that point, and then I shoot for 5 more or 10 more, or whatever my goal is. This is where my concept of “bonus reps” or “failure sets” comes in.
Here’s how you do it. Try doing a set of presses or squats, it really doesn’t matter, you can do this with anything. Do your set to complete failure, as many reps as you can till the muscle literally can’t do any more. But instead of taking a normal 60 second to 2 min rest break, try resting for only 5-10 seconds tops. Then complete 2 more reps. Then rest another 5-10 seconds and do 2 more reps. Repeat this cycle over and over for 2-3 minutes. Basically you want to rest just enough time that you can get your two “bonus reps”, but never long enough to fully recover. Think of that 2-3 minutes of bonus reps as 1 long, intense set. When the set is completed you’ve done 20-25 reps, in a complete state of fatigue and muscle failure in a time frame of just 3 minutes. Now contrast that with a normal structured set where you do your 10-12 reps but only 3-4 reps in that state of muscle failure. Then you rest to full recovery and go again.
If you do 5 sets, you completed 15-20 reps in the failure state over the course of 15-20 minutes. Which system sounds better to you? Failure sets allow you to completely destroy the muscle in a very short period of time. As your endurance improves you’ll be able to do more and more failure sets in the same workout. So now you’re getting 2 hours of work in just 20-30 minutes of lifting. Give it a try. Use a weight that you’re comfortable with. In no time you will see drastic gains in strength, muscle endurance, and even in your cardiovascular endurance. You will develop a higher threshold for pain, and greater mental toughness. Your metabolism will skyrocket due to the increased intensity of your lifting sessions, and your gains will come more rapidly than ever before. Remember, guys and gals, the reps that matter are the post-burning sensation reps, the last few, the “bonus reps”.