Ask the Trainer: The Benefits of Training Until Muscle Failure and Isolateral Exercises
Should I be strength training to muscle exhaustion or failure?
Momentary muscle failure is the inability to continue an exercise in correct form. It occurs when an individual is exerting maximum effort against a resistance at that point in the exercise it is not moving. Despite the effort, the weight can no longer be lifted; which is when an isometric or static contraction is occurring.
Here are a few very important factors before training to momentary muscle failure. First, make sure your muscles are properly warmed up before starting a failure set. Second, it is not appropriate for beginners to train this way. Build proper technique, form and muscle memory prior to adding this type of training to your regime. Third, never sacrifice form to get an extra rep completed. The gain does not outweigh the risk. And lastly, allow adequate rest of 48-72 hours specific to the muscles that were trained.
An important tip for resistance training: in order to increase strength, size or muscular endurance, you must challenge your body. If a muscle cell is not challenged with a progressive resistance training program, results will likely stall. This is one of the biggest mistakes individuals make; they do not increase their weights or change their routines often enough to keep the body guessing and gaining results.
What are the benefits of one-sided or unbalanced workouts?
Training one side of the body at a time rather than trying to train both sides at once has many benefits. It is an effective way to determine muscular imbalances and incorporate training to overcome them. It is also an excellent way to maximize the strength on that one side of the body. It is very common to see individuals who are naturally stronger on one side of their body than the other; many times it can be their dominant side, especially with athletes.
The goal of isolateral or single-limb based movements is to develop symmetry and equal total-body strength. This allows the working side of the body to lift the resistance on its own without any assistance or compensation from the other side; which allows for a greater increase in strength independently on each side of the body.
The other benefit to this type of training is the ability to increase core strength and stability of the muscles, surrounding soft tissues and joints. For example, when an individual performs a seated chest press with only the right arm, the entire core needs to be fully engaged to provide stabilization for the rest of the body. Additionally, if an individual has an injury, one-sided or isolateral movements are a great way to continue with a modified exercise program.
Try isolateral training with this how-to video on a Single-Leg Squat, Lean and Reach.