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How To Push To Muscle Failure When Working Out Alone

The Importance of Muscle Failure.

The downside of working out alone is that I find it harder to push myself.  It’s nearly impossible to get those extra reps when there’s no one behind me barking words of encouragement. Little wonder many sets might end up a little short of muscle failure.

Why is that bad? Because training to muscle failure is an important aspect of building muscle. That’s why, even though a muscle that feels like it’s on fire is uncomfortable, successful bodybuilders learn to embrace that pain. After all, beyond the burn is where real gains lie. Hence the bodybuilding mantra: “No pain, no gain”.

Moreover, evidence points toward selectively training past the point at which you can’t do any more on your own. While science shows that taking every set past failure is counterproductive, taking 1-2 sets of each movement past failure can lead to serious gains. This enables you to more thoroughly damage the muscle fibers.  Given proper rest and good nutritional practices, muscles have a better chance to repair themselves and grow larger.

You might think you need a training partner to go beyond failure, but actually, you don’t!  Try this technique…


This technique takes advantage of the muscle fibers’ ability to quickly replenish the energy substrates that power muscle contractions. So instead of doing a heavy set of 7-8 reps and racking the weight because you can’t do any more, with rest-pause you take that same weight and break it into segments interrupted by several 20-second breaks. These breaks allow those intra-muscular energy systems to quickly restock.

Here you might do just 3-4 reps, take a 20-second rest, and do another 3-4 reps, alternating work/rest segments until you’ve completed a total of 4-5 work segments. At the end of the full set, you’ve done 12-20 total reps—a much greater amount of work than had you done just the 7-8 reps without the breaks. The boost in intensity causes additional muscle fiber breakdown and helps spur muscle-building hormones that promote hypertrophy.

In Your Workout: Do this intensity booster early in a session, before your strength levels wane. Typically, you should choose a weight that you can do for 7-8 reps (but actually doing only 3-4). Alternatively, you could choose a lighter or heavier weight and adjust the rep targets. So you might use a weight than you can do for 12 reps (your 12RM weight) but string together segments of 6-7 reps, punctuated with 20-second rest intervals.

Best Exercise Choices: Your best exercise choices are multijoint moves that don’t require a great deal of effort to get into and out of, and with which the weight can be easily racked and unracked. Hence, machine chest or shoulder presses are better than dumbbell presses for those body parts. The Smith machine in particular can work really well here.

See other great techniques for working to muscle failure while working out alone at: <3 Ways To Grow Solo> from

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