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Finally reached total muscular failure, but still set new strength PRs.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

My dumbbell rack

My dumbbell rack

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, yesterday’s leg workout was absolutely phenomenal! For the ninth straight week I added weight to every exercise (including 10 more pounds to my squats and lunges), and I hit my target reps on every set but one. Yep, I finally reached total muscular failure.

As a reminder, I’m still doing this brutal 320-rep leg workout:

4×20 Leg extensions
4×20 Lying leg curls
4×20 Barbell Squats
4×20 DB lunges or Bulgarian split squats

Here are the two simple, but critical, keys to getting the most from this workout:

1) You must use enough weight so that you can barely get the last few reps up.
2) Keep the rest intervals very short – just 60 seconds between sets, 2 minutes between exercises.

I have to admit that when I stepped into the squat rack yesterday I was concerned about my lower back. The weights I’ve been squatting for the past couple of workouts have been in excess of weights that have caused my lower back issues to flair up. Also, I’m squatting more weight now (by a significant margin) than I’ve ever squatted before at my current body weight. Lifting while feeling intimidated is a recipe for disaster, so I tried to put any concerns about my back out of my mind and instead focused on making sure my form was tight.

Every set was an all-out war. I just kept focusing on the rep I was doing, and not how many more I still had to do. When I racked the bar after the final set of squats I don’t think I’ve ever felt so good and so bad at the same time. My legs were jello, I felt like I was going to puke, my heart rate was maxed and I was smiling.

Two minutes later I started my lunges using a total of 10 pounds more (5 pounds per DB) than I used last week–another personal record at this body weight. It was torture, but I manged to hit my target reps on the first three sets. On the final set, however, I literally collapsed during the 15th rep. My legs simply gave out on me, and I fell.

Over the years I’ve accomplished a lot of difficult physical tasks, but there is really nothing like the feeling when you leave everything you have in the gym. When you ignore the pain and channel every last fiber of your being into doing just one more rep–and you do that over and over until your body physically gives out… yeah, that’s where the real growth lies. I’m not not just talking about physical growth, either.

That’s rare earth right there. Not many people ever muster what it takes to reach it. Once you’ve been there, though, you’ll be compelled to return.

John Stone Fitness Comments

2 Responses to “Finally reached total muscular failure, but still set new strength PRs.”
  1. John, I have a question. Congrats by the way! IMO, successful leg workouts are what differentiate great bodybuilders from regular ones.

    Do you manage to keep the same weight for all 4 sets of 20 reps on each exercise? Or you do 1×20 easy warmup, 2×20 medium and 1×20 all-out?

    Increases of 10 lbs. every week are incredible!
    Thanks for the inspiration.

    GD Star Rating
    • Thanks, and I agree with you about the importance of leg workouts!

      Yes, use the same weight for all 4 sets. I use enough weight so that the first set is hard, the second set is extremely tough, the third set is pure torture and the fourth set makes a lifetime in hell seem like an attractive option.

      If you can’t get a full 20 reps on the first two sets, you’re either using too much weight or you’re not working hard enough. If you get 20 reps on all 4 sets, the last 3-5 reps on the final two sets should feel almost impossible and you should add weight the next workout.

      Muscular failure on the 3rd and 4th sets is OK, but not if the reps look like 20/20/12/6 or something similar; that would indicate you’ve got some conditioning and/or muscle endurance issues to work on (and should probably not be doing this workout) or you need to work on your ability to push through pain.

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