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Failing to Gain Lean Muscle?

training to failureIf you’re familiar with the AthLEAN-X philosophy you realize that I believe the human body responds best to short (but intense) efforts in the gym…all the while, making sure not to tiptoe across that fine line into overtraining. It’s a delicate balance and a slippery slope you walk, but done correctly…the rewards are incredible.

Getting Out of the Comfort Zone

That said, one of the prerequisites for muscle growth and development is to place that area in question into a state of temporary discomfort. The muscles you’re training NEED to be pushed out of their comfort zone in order to elicit a stimulus to spark new gains. In short…they need to be taken to momentary muscle failure during your sets, in order to have any reason at all to have to increase it’s resilience to your maniacal treatment of it (in a planned and controlled way of course!) and lay down new lean muscle in order to do so.

It all goes back to the concept of homeostasis. Big word…simple meaning. Essentially, what it means is the body CRAVES “sameness”. If it doesn’t have to, your body (and muscles) want to maintain the status quo with no enthusiasm for change. This means that getting it to lay down new muscle tissue is going to require a REASON…and a damn good one at that…to do so.

From striving to keep internal body temperature at 98.6 degrees, to regulating blood pressure, to the insulin/blood sugar response (and the constant tug of war that occurs there), the bottom line is…much like “that person” that we all know who plays Farmville on Facebook with people they graduated from High School with 20 years ago…change is something that is NOT going to happen without some serious intervention!

Pushing Your Muscles To Momentary Failure

In the gym and with your workouts, this change comes in the form of pushing your muscles to momentary failure at every opportunity. It was long ago described to me in this way…and it’s stuck with me ever since. I was told that the ONLY reason we perform the first say 8-10 reps of a set is to physiologically “prime” the muscles for the ONLY reps that really matter for growth…those incredibly difficult last 2-3!!

Now you might be saying, well….if that’s the case, why don’t I just load up the bar and do just 1 rep to failure? And that’s a solid question. But the answer lies in the power of the “time under tension” principle that I’ve discussed before on the blog. They go together hand in hand…and in my opinion, hold the key to lean muscle growth!

One final objection that might be raised is the argument that certain people seem to get bigger without ever having to train to failure…or even train at all for that matter! Construction workers for that matter, lift things as part of their job….constantly….never going to failure and their bodies adapt to be much bigger and stronger. As a matter of fact, I know electricians that have incredible traps as a result of doing hours of overhead work daily. What gives? Well…the answer lies in two key words…DAILY….and HOURS!

Crossing The Threshold For Quicker Results

I believe there is a certain threshold that you must cross if you want to achieve the same results with sheer volume that you can obtain much quicker with intensity. Training the same muscle group 2-3 times a week is NOT going to cut it. As a matter of fact, that is usually the fastest track to burnout and overtraining. Take these down to submaximal efforts and it’s neither hard enough or long enough to elicit a response.

On the other hand, subject your body to the same stress constantly….day in and day out for hours at a time….and you finally cross that threshold for resistance to change and FORCE change. It’s the reason why you develop callouses on your hands from lifting. To prevent skin breakdown from the bar the body knows it must protect itself and thicken the skin in that area. For the electrician to be able to perform his overhead wiring duties for hours and hours every day…the body knows it had better build up the strength in those traps (to uneven and almost superhuman levels) in order to ensure it makes it through the day in and day out stresses. That said, not many people will ever approach these ridiculous volumes…nor in my opinion, do they need to.

Attack Your Workouts With Intensity

Instead, attack your workouts with an intensity that you consider your best effort..I mean…BEST! You will be rewarded. The old workout adage is “you can either workout hard or long, but you can’t workout hard AND long”. With AthLEAN-X you’ll quickly find that you will train hard…but the workouts have never been this fun…and more importantly, the results have never been this good!

If your training program has you banging out set after set of mindless, boring exercises (the same ones you’ve been doing now for months if not years), then it’s time to join TEAM ATHLEAN and start seeing what “AthLEAN-X Training” can do for you! See how “failure” can be a good thing and put your days of failing to build lean muscle behind you!! Let me hear your thoughts below!

Stay Strong….


Jeff Cavaliere Headshot

Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS

Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.

Read more about Jeff Cavaliere by clicking here

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