They say rules are meant to be broken. Case in point is this fitness rule people say you should never break: Don’t train to failure. Avoid it at all costs. It will wear out your muscles, exhaust your nervous system, make you sore and wreck your recovery for your next workout.
If you’re a novice or ignoring that rule and training to failure all the time, yes, this is true — you’ll slow your progress, create plateaus and ingrain bad technique. But if you’ve been training for awhile, you actually need even more stimulus than before to shock your body into muscle growth. That’s where strategically training to failure can give you awesome benefits. (The key word is “strategically.”)
With a method called AMAP — which stands for “as many as possible” — you have the invitation to push yourself to the max so you can shatter physical or mental barriers. Researchers even found training to failure boosts your HGH and testosterone (for more muscle growth) and activates motor units more than regular methods.
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By stressing your body with a ton of volume and intensity, it responds by shifting into “recovery mode” for repair and growth.
Here are six ways to use AMAP correctly:
1. FOCUS ON GREAT TECHNIQUE
When you aim to fatigue your body with a lot of reps, it’s critical you use excellent form at all times. That way, you train yourself to maintain great movement patterns that don’t break down under stress, which can help you on the field, ice, court, etc.
2. USE SIMPLE EXERCISES
Use AMAP on less complex moves like squats, pushups and rows — not on complicated and technical lifts like Olympic snatches.
3. USE AMAP FOR 3–4 WEEKS AT MOST
AMAP is a serious training method: It fatigues you physically and mentally. Overdo it, and you’ll push your body into overtraining — and risk injury. Use AMAP for a restricted, planned period of time (3–4 weeks, tops) followed by a “deload” week with less intensity and volume.
4. DO AMAP ON YOUR LAST SET, NOT EVERY SET
For example, if you have 3 sets of 10 reps of rows, then do 2 sets of 10 reps normally, and replace your final set with AMAP. If you use AMAP on every set, you’ll burn out too soon and do fewer total reps.
5. KEEP ADJUSTING
AMAP lets you know where you stand. Let’s say, for example, you squat 100 pounds for 8 reps. With AMAP, you’ll probably crank out 10–12, but if you manage to do 18 reps, your weight of 100 pounds was too low to begin with.
6. USE IT FOR “GAINS,” NOT “CUTS”
If you’re using AMAP for a month, you’ll need to eat more than usual. To maximize your results, give your muscles what they need for repair and growth: Drink a protein shake after your workout and eat plenty of whole foods with every meal.