The Last Rep Counts
It was Arnold Schwarzenegger who first coined the concept that the last rep you do is when you make all of the gains. Although scientifically speaking this isn’t 100% true, it still hits the nail on the mark. The vast majority of your gains come from really pushing your muscles to failure.
When you push a muscle to failure, it sends a message to your nervous system that you need that muscle to survive and that it’s not strong enough as it is. That’s when your body will really kick into high gear to rebuild that muscle as fast as possible.
What Exactly Does “To Failure” Mean?
Workout out till failure means you work that muscle until it physically cannot do another rep. A lot of people throw in the towel long before they’ve truly hit failure, which results in sub-par gains.
Failure isn’t when you’re tired. It’s not when your muscles are screaming at you to stop. It’s not when you don’t feel like going anymore. It’s not even where you think your limit is.
It’s when you physically cannot move your muscles to do one more rep, this is after you’ve tried to do additional half or quarter reps. It takes a lot of mental willpower and determination to really push a muscle to failure.
The Mental Game of Pushing Yourself
Pushing yourself to failure is a mental challenge. Champions learn to master their resistance and push through barriers, while others give up too early. So how do you master the art of pushing yourself further?
First, focus on your sense of power. This sense of power should build as you continue to lift. A lot of people find that they tap into a primal, raw sense of power as they work out. Focus on this and use it to propel your workout forward.
You can also use an external goal to help you sustain motivation. For example, if your goal is six pack abs, you can picture those six packs as you’re nearing the end of your set. As things get really tough, visualize your goal to help take you to the finish line.
Techniques for Pushing Your Muscles
Here are a couple techniques that can really help you push your muscles to failure. First, you can extend the length of the last rep. Just as you think you can’t go any further, extend that rep to 30 seconds. Instead of doing a pull-up in 3 seconds, do it in 30. This will really push your muscles to the limit.
Second, track your workouts. Write down exactly how many reps and sets you do of each exercise. Then the next time you get ready to work out, try to beat the amount of reps you did last time. If you push yourself to failure each time and try to beat your previous record each time, you’ll naturally be pushing your body harder and harder with every workout.
Push yourself to the last rep. That’s the 10% that makes 90% of the difference.