selection is an often overlooked variable in most people's
fitness routines. Some well intentioned exercise enthusiasts
crank through exercise after exercise without sufficiently
challenging their muscles. Others are too aggressive in their
weight selection, or they use too much too soon.
There is a very good rule of thumb to follow when choosing the
proper amount of weight - and it's this:
Set one of a resistance training exercise should be a warm up
set, using a light to moderate weight level. This allows your
joints, connective tissue, and muscle tissue additional blood
flow in preparation for more work. Your second set should be a
heavier weight level, allowing the muscles to tire just a bit.
Then the sets that follow set two should be performed to
momentary muscle failure (MMF).
Momentary muscle failure simply means that we are asking the
muscles to perform a certain number of repetitions, in strict
form, to a point where the muscles cannot continue to create
additional movement. Nearing the end of a predetermined given
number of reps, you'll reach the point where the muscles start
to become challenged and you really "feel it" in that muscle.
That's the point of muscle fatigue - the target muscle or muscle
group is getting tired. But you've got to keep going past
fatigue to a point of "failure" as the whole idea is to ask the
muscle to do more than it's capable of doing at a given stage.
So let's say that you've performed a fourth repetition and
you're feeling that muscle fatigue. Then you move on to
repetition number five. And now you're trying and trying and -
you got it! You did repetition number five - in strict form, of
course! Great! But, that's not a point of failure yet - simply
because you achieved it. So now you're going to attempt to do
repetition number six - in strict form. And on this rep you are
trying and trying and trying and - Whew! You just can't do it.
Some people may have a tendency at this point to cheat, to throw
in other body parts, or to somehow use momentum to get the
weight to the place you're trying to get to. DON'T! That's the
worst thing you can do! Because when you reach that point of
momentary muscle failure, that is the stimulus - you are asking
the muscle to do something that it's not capable of doing. And
when it reaches that point of failure, stop! Now you've reached
strict muscle failure. That's when the muscle responds by
getting a little more toned and a little stronger.
This concept is critical for adding lean muscle tissue (not
bulky muscle) that allows the body to function at optimal
capacity. And remember, the development of lean tissue enhances
the body's ability to use stored body fat as energy.
Momentary muscle failure can occur at 6 reps, 10 reps, 20 reps,
or for 30 seconds, for example. There's not a magical number or
time period of repetitions. MMF at lower reps tends to stimulate
the enhancement of fast twitch muscle fibers (explosive fibers);
MMF at higher repetitions will stimulate the slower twitch
muscle fibers (endurance fibers).
If MMF sounds scary, it's not. You'll be able to follow it -
it's definitely not as hard as it might sound, but it's a
critical component to developing lean muscle tissue and
improving your health, fitness & body.