So you want to lift until failure. And obviously, the next step is to go into some of the more advanced intensification methods. But you’re not sure how or when you should use intensification methods, methods that push your body to its limits and then a bit further than that. These are things like drop sets, super sets, godzilla sets, and ascending sets.
You might also not be sure why you would actually use intensification methods, or what their actual impact on your body is. Besides being a worthwhile challenge to face, how do they actually help your body?
And what does going after rep failure have to do with it?
Failure and Nerves
First, you need to understand that going until failure means basically going until you’re unable to complete another rep with proper form. It’s an important tool to use on your workouts.
However, it also has an impact on your nervous system. Typically, on any lifting set, your nervous system recruits all of your muscle fibers, and that means it’s using them for that workout. So when you’re lifting weights, your brain sends a signal to your muscles through your nervous system and recruits them.
However, once you maximally recruit your muscles on a failure rep, your brain sends that signal at a rapid pace, contracting the muscle at its highest intensity, which gives it its greatest force output. So muscles are only one aspect of the process, your nervous system also plays an integral role in your failure rep.
Fatigue and Intensification Methods
You can’t just start your workout with a failure set, though. That’s because you’re not just recruiting your muscles, you also have to fatigue them. After you reach that fatigued state, you can go until failure, and that’s when intensification methods shine.
On a regular failure set, you’re pushing your body to its absolute limit, yes, but it’s only for a moment. Intensification methods essentially extend that moment for as long as possible.
Once you’ve gone to failure, drop the weight by 20%-30%, and keep doing your exercise. Granted, your nervous system will be taxed beyond belief, and will stay taxed for a number of days; however, that’s how you’ll get the most gains.
Impact and After Effects
Studies have shown that when your nervous system is taxed after an intensification exercise, it stays that way for a number of days. The next day, since your body is centrally fatigued, you’re going to feel tired, groggy, and probably even cranky.
You’ll probably not be able to go as hard as you want to in the weight room, since you’ll be so tired. So when should you actually use intensification methods? We recommend only using them when you feel like your nervous system is refreshed. Because once you’ve already taxed your nervous system, you’ll just be extending the recovery process, as well as overreaching and possibly damaging your body.
However, if you feel fantastic, you should probably throw in your drop sets. We recommend this 1-2 times a week per body part, especially if you’re on a growth cycle. Always refer back to your body’s autoregulation. Don’t just rigidly stick to a plan, especially if you’re relying on intensification methods.
Is your body fit and ready for a dropset on one of your light days? You could do them and switch that day with one of your more heavy ones.
Using Intensification Methods Is All About Your Goals
You should always keep your goals in mind when you’re in the weight room. In other words, are you focusing on your legs this cycle? Then you’ll have to understand that everything you do will be centered around that, and your training weeks need to be sequenced on your legs.
If you train your legs on a particular day, then the intensity would depend on your lifestyle. What happens if you go to failure on a different muscle group the previous day? Then your leg day is going to be underwhelming, since that same nervous system that’s taxed beyond belief has control over your legs.
How Long Until I’m Recovered from Intensification?
You need to realize that recovery might take anywhere from 48 hours to 96 hours, depending on the body part you’ve been training.
For example, if you did dropsets on your legs, that can take you 96 hours to centrally recover, while if you did dropsets on your arms, that can take only 48 hours.
We hope this helped you get a better understanding of the bigger picture on intensification methods!