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Momentary muscular failure Vs. Intensity; One step beyond


Feb 13, 2008
hi everyone. i have submitted chapter 8 out of my book. give me some feedback.

Chapter 8
Momentary muscular failure vs. intensity; one step beyond

Fishing requires a lot of patience, but it is the ultimate prize that makes all the waiting worthwhile. There is a trick to bagging the big one however. When you feel the fish nibbling at the bait, you must remain very still for a moment before giving the pole a quick tug in order to snag the hook into the fishes’ mouth. This is where the skill comes in to make sure not to tug too soon before the fish catches it’s mouth around the hook, yet not too late before it gets away; but once you’ve got it hooked, you’re home free.

The above example is analogous to the requirements for the facilitation of muscle growth. There is only a small window of time during which proper applications must be applied in order to achieve optimum results. It is only during this brief period that the “opportunity” exists to expose the target muscle group to as much intensity as possible. The greater is the intensity the greater the muscle stimulation. If this fails to occur during a small given time frame, it will be too late to achieve it later. You can chase the genie all day long after that and never catch it.

High intensity training literally makes high volume training impossible, primarily because such intensity can only be sustained for a short period of time anyway. The pursuit of intensity by simply performing more overall volume results in over training. Doing more work does not equal intensity, but places an excess burden on the overall recovery ability of the entire system as well as to the individual muscles themselves. When high intensity is properly applied, an excess volume of exercise is not only unnecessary but also counterproductive.

There is also however, a minimum requirement even for the volume of exercise that must be performed in order to achieve the highest possible levels of intensity. High intensity must be combined with an adequate volume of exercise in order to bring the muscles to the point where a “threshold” is reached that reciprocally affects the activation of the greatest number of available muscle fibers. This threshold occurs somewhere during a series of multiple sets; multiple sets being another requirement for growth. When this threshold is reached, a valuable side effect is that large quantities of blood are rushed to the affected area resulting in a tremendous “pump”, which is also an indicator (but not the only requirement) for growth. It is when intensity and volume meet, that maximum growth stimulation occurs (more on this in chapter 13).

Giant sets are the most effective way to accomplish this. Unlike straight sets, which only allow limited amounts of intensity, giant sets enable these limits to be extended further. Giant sets take the muscles to their threshold, or “saturation point”, bringing them to the point of maximum growth stimulation.

The term intensity as it pertains to bodybuilding training is generally considered an adjective to momentary muscular failure. When analyzed independently however, these two terms should be defined separately. Webster’s dictionary defines failure as “losing power or strength” which is not to suggest a complete inability to perform beyond the point of momentary failure. For our purposes, we can define momentary muscular failure as the capacity for a muscle to perform a maximum number of possible repetitions against a specific measure of resistance. Intensity on the other hand is not bound by the confines of such limitations. The term “momentary muscular failure” implies limitation; and is therefore only a component of intensity. Intensity goes beyond the point of momentary muscular failure and is actually an extension of it.

Threshold is attained when requirements beyond maximum momentary effort are applied in order to achieve the highest possible levels of intensity. While a side effect of high intensity training is an increase in muscular strength, this strength will not be produced without an increase in intensity; the side effect of both being increased muscle growth.

High levels of intensity are not entirely achieved however, by simply increasing the levels of resistance. Other important factors must also come into play. Optimum growth stimulation will not have been achieved until the target muscle group has been exposed to radical changes in its training environment. This occurs only with proper measures in applications of volume, resistance, and intensity.

The problem with most systems is that they are too static and methodical. Every set of every exercise is predicated upon it-self, and not functionally integrated into the rest of the workout. This leaves the trainee with the temptation to do additional sets at the end of the training session because they feel as though they did not adequately affect the target muscle group the first time around. This may be further complicated by the fact that the program is set up for training each muscle group two or more times a week on a five or six day a week schedule. These factors greatly cut into the systems overall recovery reserves and literally inhibit the body’s ability to perform high intensity training; statement in point as stated earlier being that, “volume does not equal intensity”.

A paradox will potentially occur with increases in training volume and frequency. Because both of these compromise intensity, the muscles themselves inadvertently remain under trained as a result of low intensity levels, while the systems ability to recover is rendered over trained due to an excess volume of exercise. The greatest disadvantages of over training are the adverse effects carrying over to the recovery ability of the entire system, and not just to the recovery ability of the individual muscles themselves.

The synergistic nature of the new system sets forth a momentum whereby the workouts are entirely integrated. While the workout builds upon itself as a whole, each and every set is of great individual significance. It’s like a gathering the components of a bomb which by themselves are inert, but when they are combined-create a violent explosion. There is no temptation to do more work at the end of a properly performed workout using the new system because you will literally know when you have had enough, “instinctively” or otherwise.

High intensity is the primary requirement for optimum muscle growth, but consistently high levels of intensity simply cannot be sustained for very long (E.g. during the course of an entire full body workout) and still do justice to each individual muscle group. This is partially due to the fact that the nervous system simply loses its ability to generate maximum contractions after about just over an hour of high intensity training.

For example, after properly completing two or three brutal cycles for the quadriceps using the new system, and after three working sets of dead lifts, the only consolation is that the rest of the workout is “downhill” after that. This is only because by this time, the smaller muscles, hamstrings and calves are the only muscle groups left to train-thank God! By the time you have finished the quadriceps portion of the workout, you should feel as though you just pushed a car uphill.

A properly performed lower body workout advocated by the new system is brutal and requires a tremendous amount of energy. Attempting to subsequently train the rest of the body in like fashion on the same day would inadvertently result in leaving the remaining muscle groups under trained. This is due to the body’s inability to generate as much intensity during the later part of the workout as it could in the beginning.

Even if the subject did manage to routinely force his or herself to endure full-body workouts for any period of time, training “burn out” would ensue soon thereafter both physically and psychologically. Just the impending thought alone of another marathon workout would soon become so traumatizing that you’d be psyched out before you even got started. If you don’t believe me, just try it a few times-I mean really try it. It sounds good but it just “ain’t gonna happen”. If a person insists on training the entire body in one day for any period of time, then the only solution is to split the body into two or three workouts in the same day; but to do so is as impractical as it is foolish.

At this point, the transition to a split routine makes a lot more sense. For the individual who is merely seeking overall toning and general fitness, the total body workouts is probably all that is necessary; but for those who are all about gaining serious muscle mass; forget it. This is particularly true for more advanced athlete seeking to achieve balanced development.

Even if it were possible to maintain any kind of consistency with total body workouts, they would be in excess of the body’s ability to adequately recover from performing more than two workouts a week anyway, let alone three a week as was usually advocated by the full-body proponents.
Because of its high intensity demands, the new system is designed over a split training protocol that provides for an ideal recovery schedule. In order to maintain high intensity more practically, the body should at least be divided two ways. At some point later on as a subject becomes stronger, they may be forced to compromise further by splitting the body three-ways. For best results, the three-way split should make a provision for training each muscle group once every five to seven days. This guide figure will be necessary in order to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of intensity and recovery.

So there you have it; volume and intensity are the primary requirements for optimum growth stimulation yet it is impractical if not outright impossible to maintain either, for any length of time with full body workouts. The “split routine” is therefore the only logical method of choice.

Someone once made this statement in regards to “instinctive training” (and I paraphrase) “ that if bodybuilders relied solely on their instincts as a training guide, they would instead just flake out and go to the beach”; the statement implying that bodybuilders will do just about anything to avoid high intensity training. Now if there ever were a deterrent to hard exercise it would certainly be from high intensity training, but it is very doubtful that this would apply to the hardcore bodybuilder. Bodybuilders as a whole are willing to endure just about anything in their quest to attain the ultimate physique. These are witnessed by their willingness to the risk chemical health hazards and endure strict dietary regimes associated with the sport. Further, if it suddenly became revelatory that bodybuilders could achieve the same results by eating dog crap as they could by taking steroids, they would do it; I know I sure as hell would.

If a bodybuilder were to avoid the kind of high intensity training as proposed by the new system, I do not believe that it would be so much because of their intolerance to pain, but rather their reluctance to sacrifice the heavy weights which they have so long embraced. In my opinion, the proposition of sacrificing heavy poundage’s instills potentially far more fear and emotional trauma than does the rigors of high intensity training itself. To suddenly have ones training comfort zone turned completely upside-down I feel, would be a far more difficult psychological adjustment. This is a catch-22 situation that unfortunately causes many trainees to inadvertently avoid true high intensity training, not deliberately nor intentionally, but emotionally.

The proposition of compromising “heavy weights” will for some, pose a definite challenge in transitioning to the new system. Dramatic decreases in poundage’s that are experienced by this transition are only temporary however, as strength levels and conditioning requirements will soon adjust accordingly as the subject becomes acclimated to the increased demands of intensity.

In making a transition to the new system, a trainee must first be willing to sacrifice the poundage’s they are accustomed to with their current style of training. It will be hard for some trainees to swallow their pride and start over from square one; but the long-term result will be the acquisition of true muscular strength rather than just being able to lift more weight. These improvements will equivocate to dramatic increases in lean muscle mass.
In fact, the new system enables a trainee to quickly surpass former levels of both development and strength; that is, true strength and not just the ability to move weights from point A to point B. In addition, are the added dividends of improved cardiovascular efficiency and muscular endurance; all of which further contribute to enhance growth.

There is more to getting results than just training harder with increasingly heavier weights. You can literally push until your eyeballs come out of your head and still fall short of attaining the highest possible levels of intensity. At first, my statements may appear to apparently contradict the standard philosophy that “in order to get bigger you must get stronger”. In fact, this is still a very true statement, as long as we do not misinterpret it to mean that in order to get bigger we must use more weight.

The new system is designed to yield results beyond those afforded primarily by linear conventional methods such as pyramiding with single straight sets. High levels of intensity simply cannot be achieved by merely working out “hard”, but rather by taking intensity to a higher level. The greater the intensity is the greater percentage of muscle fibers that will be affected.
The objective then is to create a “climate” whereby the target muscle group is briefly exposed to the highest possible degrees of intensity. This is accomplished by consolidating a high volume of work into a small window of time, and incorporating two or more exercises for the same muscle group performed in “giant set” fashion. No matter how “hard” you train with straight sets, you cannot begin to approach the levels of accumulative intensity that are possible with giant sets.

Trainees should select exercises for which they find themselves to be naturally suited, that conform to and emphasize their individual requirements. These exercises should be performed with strict form, accentuating the negative aspect of the movement at all times. After reaching the point of momentary muscular failure, the intensity enhancement methods discussed in chapter seven should then be implemented.

All being said so far about intensity, it doesn’t stop there. Chapter ten discusses negative only resistance while chapter eleven covers cluster training and how its momentum further increases intensity to yet another level.

There is no such thing as a bad exercise as long as it is performed properly and done with maximum intensity. Emphasis should be placed also on doing whatever necessary to make that exercise more difficult. For example, performing full range leg presses and hack squats with the feet together for high repetitions. I actually touch my heels together when doing these exercises. I do my bench presses to the neck at a slight incline and perform dead lifts standing on a thick plate to increase my range of motion etc. etc. Making an exercise more difficult always results in the requirement of using less weight (which is all right with me) This results in largely reducing the participatory assistance of auxiliary structures and contributes greatly to increasing intensity to the target muscle.

While limiting rest time in-between sets is also a consideration for increasing intensity, this does not mean to say that a workout should become a marathon session. While time is a factor, it is not the factor. The original pre-exhaust method advocated literally zero rest time in-between sets, which literally prevents the ability to reach high levels of intensity for several reasons. First; this approach is intensely aerobic in nature, leaving the trainee winded as they continue onto their next set; cardiovascular efficiency being the limiting factor. Second; the muscles have not yet adequately rid themselves of excess lactic acid to effectively continue. Both impede the contractile ability of a muscle thus preventing the ability to affect significantly higher numbers of available fibers.

There is a point of diminishing returns in regards to training brevity as it applies to the recommended time that should elapse between sets. For giant sets, the rest period between each individual set should be at least thirty seconds, which is just enough time to record set performance or to prepare the poundage’s for the next one. More importantly is that somewhat normal breathing composure is resumed as the body’s physiology reverts back to the anaerobic mode of exercise during this time period, and before going on to the next set. The anaerobic mode is a most fundamental requirement for effective resistance training, as it enables the production of a
tremendous “pump”. The pump is not only a happy side effect, but also one of the requirements for muscle growth. This can be qualified by the fundamental physiological fact that adequate blood supply is necessary to promote healing.

In the eighties I trained hard, but the level of intensity ended as soon as I terminated a set. Although the efforts exerted during each set were extreme, I still failed to challenge the muscles to their full capacity. Also, I used poundage’s that were far too heavy, which encumbered the auxiliary structures, preventing the target muscles from being able to maximally contract. In addition, the rest periods between sets were too long to permit anything approaching “true” intensity. Training in this fashion for any period of time soon wears you down both physically and emotionally. After awhile this results in getting into a major rut, and a case of just plain “burnout”. Progress then soon comes to a complete halt before joint problems begin to arise, which further impede progress.

The stimulation of new growth requires that intensity be taken to a new level. To put increased intensity into its proper perspective, I would like to paraphrase an old aphorism; “when you feel that you have exhausted all possibilities-remember you haven’t”.

In order to climb up the ladder of intensity, its applications must be channeled strategically. This can be accomplished by discriminately using such methods as giant sets, staggering, cyclic training, negative resistance and other concepts discussed previously and elsewhere in this journal. Only by training in this fashion will levels of intensity be achieved that are necessary to provide maximum growth stimulation while assuring adequate recovery.

Summarily, the key is to select a collaboration of movements, which cover a comprehensive spectrum of exercises to be performed symbiotically in giant set fashion. This series of sets should be performed to the point of momentary muscular failure, and then continuing beyond that point by utilizing radical methods designed to further enhance intensity.


Mecca V.I.P.
Apr 13, 2007
the problem with a lot of what you are saying is that you make a good point and then recommend a giant set which you have not linked in even a pseudo-scientific manner to your initial criticisms of traditional training...

a giant set seems like a big exhaustive waste of time, unless you can increase the overload on your body week to week.....i dont see the point of trying to improve your performance week to week on a giant set; its best to keep it simple and improve about 5 basic lifts per workout in reps or weight ( and like you point out in a way that is really overloading the muscle not just throwing up more numbers) if you use good form and improve in a few reps or more weight on your basic lifts week in week out, your body will grow muscle provided their is adequate rest and nutrition.......a giant set serves only to achieve a perceived level of intensity, which is irrelevant unless your muscles have been overloaded in an anaerobic fashion.

Sorry if i have been critical of your articles, it could be due to not having interpreted your ideas correctly or seeing a complete book, but your solutions to common gym training errors don't have a very strong link from what I'm seeing so far! post a sample workout with some explanation of what the progression goals are and how they link to muscle growth!

You raise interesting points but i just cant make the link to the solutions!