“When you train to failure, you leave the gym a failure.” – Bill Pearl, 4X Mr. Universe
’twas 34 years ago. I was visiting my friend, Bill Pearl, at his home in Oregon. We got up early each morning to train. Real early. 4 AM.
During the workout I noted that Bill NEVER did a single set to failure.
At the time, the notion of training until you have nothing left was commonplace. In fact, it still is, even though, for the most part, it is ridiculously unnecessary and counterproductive.
I asked Bill why none of the sets we were doing were going to failure. And that’s when he told me that when you train to failure you leave the gym a failure.
Compare training to failure to the idea of training to success; to always making sure you end on a positive note.
If you’re practicing free throws, you want to end the practice with a swoosh. If you’re practicing putting, you want to end with a ball that you just sunk. If you’re practicing kicks and punches, you want to end your workout with a blow that makes the bag snap and crack.
22 years ago, when I dove deeply into bodyweight conditioning, one of the many aspects I loved was the fact that you didn’t have to train to failure to get first-class results. Additionally, you get stronger by hitting muscles and tendons in ways that cannot be reached with weights. And you don’t suffer nearly as many injuries.
In Combat Conditioning, my international best-seller, as well as the advanced course, Gama Fitness, I tell the reader to “do as many as you can.” This implies that you end the set on a positive note. You’ve done as many as you CAN – not so many that you fail.
Over the years I have orally revised my words, telling those whom I coach to find your comfort zone and expand it naturally, by doing reps and sets in numbers that do NOT cause any type of fear response in your brain and nervous system.
This means, if you’re running sprints, you do NOT sprint as hard as you can, over and over and over again. You test yourself with a maximum sprint here and there, but not every sprint of every workout is even close to 100 percent.
With Hindu pushups and squats, you learn to build up to hundreds of reps, if you so choose, by doing sets that appear too easy to move the needle.
End your workout with a feeling of “can do” rather than “can’t do.” Finish with the feeling that you saved something for tomorrow instead of the idea that you have nothing left.
I realize what I’m telling you may appear to be a somewhat lily-livered weak approach to fitness, but test it out if you don’t believe me. I’m betting you’ll discover that el Furecat is spot on once again. I’ve coached people who’ve gone from a maximum of 25 pushups to well over 100, with ease, without training to failure. I’ve coached people whose thighs were blowing up at 40 reps, yet now they can do 500 repetitions without stopping. At the 500th repetition, they are still succeeding.
That’s the way to play this game, my friend. Play it to succeed, not to fail. Your brain and body will reward you for doing so.
Kick ass – take names.
P.S. People hate it went I say this, but show me a monstrous weight-trained athlete out on the ball field, and I’ll show you an athlete who is frequently injured. Check out how often Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are injured and compare it to someone such as Ichiro Suzuki (now retired), as a point of reference. This is one concrete example of why bodyweight exercises are supreme. Combat Conditioning may not give you a 58″ chest and 22″ arms, but it’ll give you functional strength, athleticism, grace, speed, flexibility and power that boggles the minds of those who see you in action.