Why you should train for failure (yes, failure!)

The #1 mistake women make when first hitting the gym

I remember the day my bff Emma, dropped her pants.  My jaw hit the floor.

We were standing in a hotel bedroom in London, where I was competing in an international show as a bikini competitor the next day.  Emma (my posing coach and new best friend fo-evva) was competing in her show in 5 weeks time. And her legs put mine to shame.

Normally when you’re 5 weeks out from a show, your condition is still a little “fluffy”.  But not Emma.

The separation was visible and her outer sweep and teardrop were like nothing I’ve ever seen.  In plain English? Her legs were eye wateringly-jaw droppingly-put me to shamerly- unbelievable.

And the worst part?  She spent the weekend stuffing her face with doughnuts, pizza and a glass or two of vino whilst I had been suffering near death starvation for 12 weeks straight.  

To say I was confused by this, was an understatement.  It went against everything I thought I knew about prepping for a show.

How’d you doooooo ‘dat? (I begged her to tell me)

Two words (she said).  Mark Getty.

Mark Getty a heavyweight bodybuilder with 25 years experience as a coach, trainer, competitor and athlete.  And he’s built like a brick s**t house. (Context: His bicep is as big as my waist. Don’t believe me? See below.)

I had been training myself up until that point and had made pretty good gains, winning or placing in every single show I had competed in and boasting a body most 20-somethings would die for.

I was pretty sure I knew a thing or two about the sport of bodybuilding.  

But I was hungry (literally and figuratively) and competitive and always seeking the marginal gains that would take my training and body to the next level.

So I booked an appointment to meet Ireland’s very own version of the Incredible Hulk.

Mark agreed to take me on as a client and I realised that I actually hadn’t been doing too badly.  My training was spot on, the exercises were effective and my training programs were well designed.

But there was one thing missing from my training.

One thing that I thought I was doing, but wasn’t.

One thing that when I learned and started using it, caused me to DOUBLE the amount of muscle gains I was making, in half the time.

This one thing?  Not hitting total-utter-leave-your-soul-on-the-floor-as-you-leave-the-gym  muscle failure.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that I really did not understand the meaning of the word failure until I met Mark.  I mean, who actually wants to fail, right?

But the gym is the only place you can fail in order to succeed.  And if you don’t fail, you will… well… you’ll fail. (Confused yet?)

Why is failure so important to achieve your body a-la-athlete style?

Watch this video where I break it all down.

In this video I share with you:

  • The #1 reason your efforts are not yielding the results you deserve
  • What muscle failure REALLY means, and why it’s the cornerstone of your success
  • How to achieve the same results as me, even if you don’t have $$$ to spend on a PT

Don’t forget… the best conversations always happen in the comments.  

After you’ve watched the video leave a comment below and tell me if this rocked your world as much as it did mine.  

Love Kim xo

Video Transcript

Hi this is Kim Constable and today I want to talk to you about going to muscle failure in order to stimulate more muscle fibres and promote more growth. So one of the biggest mistakes I see women make whenever they start in the gym is not going to concrete muscle failure in their final set in order to recruit more muscle fibres and stimulate more growth.

So what do I mean by muscle failure? Well I remember whenever I was prepping for a show and I changed trainers after the first show before moving into my second show which was 3 weeks later, now I had been training long and hard whenever I was training by myself. My workouts were sometimes 1 hour to 2 hours long, I was doing 5 to 6 sets of things and it was just an absolute exertion to get through all of the workouts. So whenever I changed trainers, I changed to a bodybuilder with 20 years’ experience who was absolutely enormous, obviously very successful at what he was doing and he brought me into the gym for the first session and he said well let’s train legs. So we did a couple of sets of leg extensions and then in the final set, you know, he said, you know we were doing maybe 10 to 12 reps and I reached maybe 12 reps and he said keep going, keep going so I did another 3 and he said keep going and I did another 5 and he said keep going and I was like what on earth are we doing, like 25 reps in my final set, I actually couldn’t even more my legs any more, when I couldn’t move my legs any more, he said okay good you can stop. So I stopped and I was like well that was weird.

So after the leg extensions we moved onto smith squats. So he put me on smith and I did like 10 reps with the bar and then he threw like 10kg on each side and I did another 10 reps and then he threw another 10kg on each side and I thought okay this will probably be my final set so I did another 10 reps and I really struggled on the last 3 reps and then he threw another 10kg on either side and I realised we were going for a final set. Now we were doing 80kg squats when I had only been doing 60kg for my top set, to say I was shocked was an understatement. So I managed the first 3 to 4 reps by myself, by the 5th rep I was really really struggling and he had to just give me a little lift on either side of the bar so I pushed up to 6 reps thinking he was going to let me stop, no way, he said keep going, keep going, so I did 7, I was really struggling, he said keep going, by 8 I felt like crying, he said keep going, by 9 I was sounding like I was giving birth and he said keep going and on the 10th rep it took me probably 4 to 5 seconds to get from a full squat position to a standing position and he said okay now you’re done, I re-racked the bar. That was concrete muscle failure.

I had never trained like that in my life. If the gym programme I was doing said 10 reps, well I thought that I had to get to 10 reps, if it said 12 reps, I thought I had to get to 12 reps and when I got to 12 reps, even if I still had more in the tank, I stopped. Now that is the worst possible thing you can do because whenever you’re training, you want to try and recruit as many muscle fibres as you possibly can but if you push to 10 reps and you can move 10 reps and you’ve still got more in the tank, then you’ve more muscle fibres to recruit. That’s what muscle failure means, it means that your body has recruited every single muscle fibre that it possibly can in order to shift that weight and it literally cannot recruit anymore and you cannot move that bar one more inch, that is what muscle failure means.

So, in your final set of your exercise you should be aiming for muscle failure, if you don’t hit concrete muscle failure and by that I mean you cannot possibly move one more inch letting you keep going, if you’ve got more reps in the tank, you do more reps or you finish your 10 reps, you re-rack the bar, you put more weight on it and you go again, even if you only hit 5 or 6 reps, if you go to failure, your body will have recruited as many muscle fibres as it possibly can and your muscle will grow.

So how do you go to muscle failure if you’re on your own? Well if you squat, you want to squat on the smith which means that if you really can’t get up from your final rep, you just re-rack the bar and you get out from underneath it or, if you’re doing some kind of upper body workout, you just say to someone who’s walking by or someone who’s training, will you spot me in the final few reps, other gym goers, especially guys are used to spotting each other. They will have more respect for you if you ask for a spot than if you struggle along alone and you don’t push through to failure. So just ask can you spot me in the final few reps and they will be more than happy to come along and spot you.

If you are not grunting, grinding, swearing and sweating in your final set of every single exercise, you are not working hard enough.

One of the biggest mistakes I see women make and one of the biggest complaints I get from women in my network is that their muscles won’t grow, they’re working so hard in the gym, they’re there for an hour or two hours every day and they just can’t get their muscles to grow. The problem is, they’re not hitting muscle failure so the muscle has no reason to grow.

Your muscle only has a reason to grow if you give it a reason to grow. If you can lift or you can bench press a 40kg bar and you bench press a 40kg bar for 10 reps, then your muscle will not grow any more muscle than enough muscle to bench press 40kg. If however you go to 45kg and you only manage 4 to 5 reps and then you get a spot in the last couple of reps well now your body realises that your body needs enough muscle to push a 45kg bar. So your body will produce more muscle fibres, your muscles will grow and you will get stronger. If you always work to within the range that you have right now, you will never progress, you need to push harder, you need to progressively overload, preferably with weight to make your muscle grow.