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8 Steps to Crushing Your First Gym Session

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Training to Failure: How to Do It Right

Wanting to learn how to REALLY make sure you're working your muscles as hard as possible, and are training all the way to failure?

Man working hard and training until failure

You hear us talking about it all the time.

We're constantly telling you to train to failure, to work your muscles hard and to put in real efforts during your working sets at the gym.

We tell you that you HAVE to work hard, otherwise you're not going to see any meaningful results.

And while this is true, it doesn't mean that you have to be reaching absolute failure every time.

But it's difficult for beginners to gauge how hard they're really working.

Some beginners will think that they've gone hard enough the second they start to sweat, while others might stop as soon as their muscles start to tighten up.

To help fix this, we've got a simple, quick fix for you in this article to help the beginners learn what it really feels like to train all the way to failure.

What Does it Mean to Train to Failure?

To 'train to failure' means to keep going with a certain exercise without resting, all the way until you literally cannot do another rep.

And while you shouldn't be taking every set you do to absolute failure due to the high recovery costs, you do need to make sure that every set is hard, and that you're within 1-3 reps of muscular failure if your goal is muscle building or hypertrophy.

Learn more:

But There Are Two Types of Failure

Training to failure often comes in two forms. One of them is generally better than the other to stop at.

Absolute Failure

Man extremely tired after training very hard in the gym

Absolute failure is doing a certain exercise for as many reps as possible until you physically can't move the weight any more in your desired range of motion.

As you can probably imagine, this leads to a lot of cheating, and swinging, and bringing in other muscles that don't really want to be contributing in the first place.

This is not really a good type of failure, as the reps you end up doing towards the end of your 'set' aren't going to be all that productive, and it's going to cause your recovery time to skyrocket without generating that much more gains.

It's where you might see someone's barbell rows start to look like deadlifts, or someone's barbell overhead press start to look like a squat into overhead press.

Technical Failure

This is the better type of failure, and has you stopping once your form starts to break down and you're not able to continue doing reps at that weight with the same technique.

The reason that this is the type of failure you want to be stopping at over the other is due to the fact that you're still taking your target muscles to failure until they can't go anymore, but aren't wasting any extra energy that could be used in subsequent sets on cheating and swinging.

You're still going to be taking the target muscles to failure and working them extremely hard, but you're going to preserve as much energy as possible for future sets.

Whenever you do train close to or to failure, you want to be stopping at technical failure, NOT absolute failure.

So How Do You Know If You're Training Close Enough to Failure?

A simple exercise you can utilize to make sure you really know what it feels like to train to failure would be to simply just do it.

Let us explain.

When we've been training with people that are newer to the gym, and we can tell that they're stopping well before they actually reach failure, it's a common find that they don't actually know they have a lot more left in them, and they they actually thought they'd gone to failure.

So what do we do?

We just get them to go to a mix between absolute failure, and technical failure!

We'll stand next to them on the lat pulldown machine, or the bench press, and just make them use a comfortable weight they thought they could do 8-10 reps with, and watch them until they reach proper failure.

No matter how slow the reps get, no matter how ugly their faces become or how red they look, we tell them to keep going until they actually fail on a rep.

More often than not, this exercise will actually be the first time they ever fail in the middle of a rep.

As long as you haven't failed during a rep, you're not done yet. That's the main rule.

You're allowed to swing a little and cheat a little, but once you get to the point where it becomes a little excessive in order to keep moving the weight then you're finished.

And after they're done, it's a completely new feeling they've never experienced before!

Many beginners simply do not know what it feels like to train to actual failure, and instead stop well before it because they 'think' they've reached failure.

Then, now they they know what it truly feels like to train hard, they're going to be able to do it on their own and keep training with integrity, pushing themselves to work hard.

Personal trainer encouraging his client to work very hard

So How Do I Do This For Myself?

  1. Get an experienced lifter with 2-3 years of experience to watch you.

  2. Pick your exercise (lat pulldown, pull ups, bench press, leg press, etc.).

  3. Pick a weight you guess you cold do 8-10 reps with.

  4. Do as many reps as possible with good form.

  5. Even if you start feeling like you need to cheat a little bit, keep going. Allow yourself to swing or cheat a bit.

  6. Keep going until you fail in the middle of a rep, even after a bit of cheating.

  7. Your experience lifter with you should be able to tell once you're finished, and once you've worked hard enough.

  8. Enjoy the burn!

Once you know what it feels like to truly work hard in the gym, we want you to implement it into your own workouts, making sure to take each and every working set close to, or within 3 reps of technical failure if your goal is muscular hypertrophy.

This is a simple exercise you can do to really experience what it really means to work hard in the gym, and to form a basis to gauge your other working sets against.


Training to failure can be difficult to gauge at first for beginners, but it's extremely important to be able to tell when you're actually working hard enough in the gym, as this is going to have massive effects on the gains you make.

This simple exercise we've introduced you to should do the trick.

And if, after trying it out you're still a little unsure, try it out again on a different exercise!

It sure is a great way to learn and familiarize yourself with hard work in the gym.


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