Adaptability; It Takes Effort
I worked in the Pilbara region in Western Australia from 2013 to 2018, and an important thing to note about that region is the unusually high ambient temperatures, year-round. Temperatures exceeding 45°C are common, and I have personally experienced temperatures exceeding 50°C on numerous occasions. The type of work required climbing inside machines that had been working in those temperatures all day long. It had to be done. Do what’s required, get paid. Over time, the suppressive heat, and humidity became easier to tolerate. It was always difficult to tolerate, it just became easier. Within one year, my body had adapted, and when I was home in Newcastle, 30°C required the wearing of a jumper.
The point is; when the human body is subject to external stressors, it will adapt. In the context of physical exercise, especially resistance training, adaptation is derived from the application of constant stress over and above that which the body has become adapted to. Too often, people engaged in resistance training, appear to be going through the motions; they have selected a weight that allows them to easily complete twelve repetitions without “breaking a sweat”. This is not sufficient to drive adaptation. I would argue it barely drives maintenance. If a sufficient amount of stress has not been applied to drive constant adaption, the body will rapidly drive towards homeostasis; a return to an easily maintained, natural state. It takes years to build it, and weeks to lose it.
Once we are past the basic conditioning phase, once our heart, lungs, joints, tendons and ligaments have had a chance to progressivley adapt, AND once our technical performance is tight, then every single workout must be difficult. You should question if the weight you have selected will allow you to get your reps. You must meet the pain and struggle against it. Don’t quit. Your workout should be difficult from start to finish. You must give it your best. This is the only way to force adaptation; apply a suitable amount of stress to force change. You will notice that your body will adapt.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the research on intensity. We can see the benefits of training to muscular failure supported by Fisher et al 2013, who found that “persons should train to the highest intensity of effort, thus recruiting as many motor units and muscle fibres as possible,” although, they do mention training “single sets.” So training to complete technical failure may be best placed in shorter workouts, where it is more achievable as the intensity versus volume paradox takes effect. There is of course a large body of evidence suggesting significant volume is required for maximal hypertrophy (muscle growth). So training close to failure without complete failure can be more sustainable over each mesocycle (training program duration). Plus, a Systematic Review by Grgic et al (2021) (15 studies pooled and sumamrised) found that similar increases in muscle size can be attained regardless of whether or not training is carried out to muscular failure. We also know that those final two reps to failure are disproportionatley fatiguing (Ramos-Camo et al., 2020), which may not be great from a recovery standpoint. So leaving 5 to 2 reps from complete muscular failure can be wise. Nevertheless, when people are taken to this actual point of the set for the first time, the pain in real – enough to drive adaptation, and that is my point.
Overall, I think the best side effect of bodily adaptation is that you will have also forced your mind to adapt. You will eventually find the adaptation of the mind will drive discipline. Discipline is far superior to motivation. You may think you can’t go on; your adapted mind knows you can, and your discipline will have you continue. You’re not finished when you start to tire, you’re finished when you’re done.
It is not easy. It can’t be easy. It must have a degree of difficulty. You need to give it your best. Constant progression requires constant application of stressors, and the adaptation to tolerate and succeed against, those stressors. This thought process is transferrable to any aspect of daily life. The net result is that you will become a formidable human.
– Ben : )
‘Goals Make Destiny’
Review Article Supporting Training to Failure:
Training Volume Meta-Analyses:
Non-Failure vs Failure Training: