Saturday, May 31, 2014
Success is in your failure

By Tony Wagner Citizen Columnist

Dear Mr. Fitness:

I overheard you talking in the gym to one of your clients about how failure is success. I apologize for listening in but your client was standing right next to me. I think you told him that failure is a good thing or something to that effect. What exactly did you mean? Next time I'll just chime in!

-- Listener

Dear Listener:

I know who you are. You're the one continually hanging around waiting for precious tidbits from me. A-ha! That's fine. I'll be more than happy to share with you what I was telling my client.

Weight training is one of the few endeavors (perhaps the only one) we can undertake that, when doing it properly, failure is what we strive for.

By this, I mean that we want to take our muscles to absolute failure during a particular exercise. For instance, you are curling the barbell for your biceps -- 22, 23, 24. Now it's starting to get difficult, but you keep going and going until you can't lift it one more time. That's momentary muscular failure.

This would indicate that we have fully exhausted the muscle and it can no longer perform any more contractions. This momentary muscular failure should occur at the apex of that set. Every set.

This is wonderful when it happens! I have noticed that most people learn how to do an exercise, then continue to move the weight from point A to point B without a care in the world as to how it gets there. Sometimes I've observed people actually talking when doing a set. What's up with that?

Watch when you are in the gym at how people exercise. See if they only do a requisite amount of reps and sets not caring a whit about taking the muscles to failure.

In life, we never want to experience failure, or presumably too much failure. Training with the weights is one of the few times that failure is what we seek to achieve. Think about it.

Next time you do a set of barbell curls, forget the amount of reps and concentrate solely on proper form and doing the movement until the biceps can no longer function. I would advise you to lower the amount of weight from what you would normally utilize. You will truly appreciate the exercise when using this technique.

When you experience momentary muscular failure, your biceps will be totally trashed! This failure means when you rest days afterward, your body has to compensate for this fool who continually trains to exhaustion! Your body responds by making your biceps stronger and in better condition. Endurance and stamina condition.

This is good. When you employ this method the body is forced to respond to it quickly. In other words, the results come fast!

For you budding scientists out there, this is referred to as an alarm and accommodation phase. The alarm phase is the workout to failure. The accommodation phase is the body getting into shape! This is basically what all workouts are designed to do. Well, they're supposed to.

Try it and then I hope I overhear you signing the praises!

-- Mr. Fitness

Tony Wagner, aka Mr. Fitness, has more than 30 years of fitness and nutritional expertise. A certified personal trainer and fitness author, he has helped thousands of people get into and stay in shape. Contact him at and come visit at Bodyzone Fitness Center, 2740 N. Roosevelt Blvd., 292-2930.