Is Failure Training Necessary?

A motor unit is trained in direct proportion to its recruitment. A motor unit is a nerve plus the muscle fibers it activates. Motor unit activation depends on size: the nervous system activates small motor units to exert minimal force, and larger units to exert greater force. We have different kinds of motor units that are activated according to the force and speed requirements. Maximum hypertrophy requires that we overload as many different kinds of muscle fibers and motor units as possible. Failure training might be the best way to do this. A review of literature by Brazilian researchers concluded that the benefits of failure training depended on weight-training experience. In untrained people, high-intensity weight training to failure is not necessary to maximize muscle size and strength. However, they benefit from low-intensity training to failure. Trained athletes increase strength best with high-intensity resistance training to failure, but they don’t benefit as much from low-intensity training to failure.  (Frontiers in Physiology, published online January 29, 2016)

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