Lifting to “Failure” Is Not a Good Idea for Athletes and Power Lifters – Especially Shot-put Throwers

“Failure” is a very effective tool for anyone who wishes to achieve results in lifting. Failure is defined as continuing reps until you can no longer get your muscle to do any more for the time being; this is what is referred to as momentary muscle failure.

If you feel like you could do another set of the same exercise a minute later, you didn’t reach failure as we are defining it. Remember that the last repetition, the point of failure, is the rep that matters. The rest of the repetitions are just a warm-up for that moment.
~Tim Ferriss

And here’s my favorite from Mike Mentzer:

Executing that last, almost impossible, rep causes the body to dip into its reserve ability. Since it only has a small amount of this reserve to draw upon before depletion occurs, the body protects itself from future assaults upon its reserves by enlarging upon its existing ability through the compensatory build-up of more muscle mass.

Only high-intensity effort can force the body to resort to its reserve ability sufficiently to stimulate an adaptive response in the form of a muscle mass increase. Repeating tasks that are within your existing capacity do nothing to stimulate growth, there’s no need. Ending a set before failure, just because an arbitrary number of reps have been completed simply will not induce growth.

Mike Mentzer


So it is indeed a fact that muscle failure is mandatory, IF YOUR GOAL IS GAINING SLABS OF MUSCLE!


Muscle failure is biologically taxing and it works because it allows your body to recruit as many types and groups of muscle fibers as possible as one type of your fibres fail, other groups are recruited to help out. That way, you train and do “micro damage” on all these types and muscle fiber groups.

This means more muscle growth, EVERYBODY HAPPY!!

NOT really. The thing is that strength athletes and anyone training for explosiveness and power will derive little to no benefit from this type of training.

What we have learned earlier is that one must adhere to the principle of “specificity”. That means that one must train specifically for his own goals. Training to failure will develop all types of muscle fibers that a power athlete don’t need. A power athlete must strive to only train “explosive” muscle fibers.

These are fast twitch fibers, and to be able to reap success in gaining strength, an athlete must really dedicate his biological reserve to developing these muscle fiber types specifically and in the process kinda train other slower fiber types as well to act more like fast twitch fibers. (You do know that there are hybrid slow/fast twitch fibers which is possible to develop thru training – which is what I was pertaining when I say making slow fibers act like fast twitch ones). That or else he risks wasting his energy and develop recovery inroads which will hinder development.

I will share with you some exchanges of email between me and a reader which we will call SHOT! Shot is a shot-put player and is basically wondering why is he getting bigger doing our regimen but his distance is getting worse (the distance which he throws the canon ball). This one is very interesting for me personally since I also used to play shot-put way back in my college days and like this guy, I made the mistake of doing bodybuilding-style training instead of power-oriented training.

My favorite Shot put guy Randy Barnes:

randy barnes specialized shotput training



Below you will basically learn what adjustments you need to do in your lifting regimen if your goal is to increase your power and I also explained here why lifting to momentary muscle failure is a BAD IDEA if your goal is power and what to do next. ENJOY!!

Note: minor grammatical and spelling errors have been edited out

Subject: Athletics – shot put, discus throw.
From: “####” <>
Date: Thu, May 21, 2015 2:18 am
To: “About Lifting” <>
Priority: Normal
Status: answered
Options: View Full Header | Print | Download this as a file

Hi. First of all, thank you for what you are doing. You are providing us with very good and valuable information, it helps in sports allot. Keep this going.

My question:
I am doing athletics – discus throw and shot put. So what is the best way to train for these explosive disciplines? During off season i usually strive to get stronger, doing like 6×6, 6×5, 6×4, adding more weight each weak. Typically in my session I do squats, or front squats bench press, snatches, deadlifts. 6×6 bench, 6×6 squats, 3×6 deadlifts, 3×6 snatches. Sometimes i do cleans. I get stronger, but i get slower and somehow i feel tired and when competition is coming the distances for the implements are actually decreasing. After that i get kinda burned out and strenght levels are also falling down. Usually best results come when i do not touch the barbell for like 3weeks. After that i feel kinda better,than speed shows up and the results are getting better. So how to balance it? How to train in offseason to actually get stronger and faster without constantly burning the fuck out of yourself? And how to train during the season to maintain speed and not loose distances in throws?

My response:

Subject: Re: Athletics – shot put, discus throw.
From: “George Ironthumb”

By the way sorry for the delay in response, And thank you for appreciating the hard work in this site and the articles! I am really glad that it is helping you guys! 🙂
On that, to help me assist you could you please send me a typical week? Your training splits, rest periods, etc. How many times a week do you train, your supplementation, your diet, your lifestyle, stress level, etc.




Subject: Re: Athletics – shot put, discus throw.
From: #############
Date: Sat, May 23, 2015 10:53 am
To: “George Ironthumb” <>
Priority: Normal
Status: answered
Options: View Full Header | Print | Download this as a file | View as HTML

Before i read your articles about building explosiveness and speed, i did Throwing and lifting in Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I did Throwing in the morning then weights in the afternoon. And Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday i did plyos and some additional exercises. i did additional exercises in morning, sprints and plyos in the afternoon.

Early offseason:

Morning. 10-20 Stand throws, discus or shot, different weights. Evening, weights. typically – Snatches 3×8, deadlifts 3×12, front squats, 6×12, bench press 6×12. Usually i pushed through the failure almost every single lifting session. And other day during the morning i did additional exercises like dumbbell flyes, good mornings for back, bicep, tricep with barbell and abs. Afternoon i did sprints, like 4x50metters, than i did overhead shot throws, triple jumps from stand and box jumps.

Throwing session went like 1hr 30min., weights about 2hr and 30.min. I did some 3-4min recovery between sets. Next day, additional exercises went like 1hr and during the afternoon i did sprints and plyos for 1hr30min. So on average I did train like 3hrs every day.

After 2 weeks of this type of training i was like exhausted; I ate much, morning 5-7 egg omelet and 1cup of oatmeal with honey and raisins and banana or 2; and off course black bread with butter. After that, some multivitamin complex, like Vitakic, or megavitek. i did breakfast at 7:30.

10:00 training, before training i ate GAKIC, for extra energy, after session I did creatine and liquid aminos. Lunch 12:30 i did a big peace of pork or beef, sometimes chicken breast, usually with rice and some salads. than i went sleep like 1hr before afternoon training i did GAKIC with coffee, after workout I took aminos and whey. Before sleep i took ZMA, L – ARGININE, and NA NO XC9.

Dinner – meat with salads, sometimes with rice. I became like 301 fucking pounds, being 6’4, but i didn’t actually throw much farther and i did not become that much stronger, i just became bigger, more muscular and meaty, just a little bit faster. I knew that if i want to achieve greater results in this sport, than something is not ok. i must do something different, than i found

Now for some 6 weeks i am doing:


Snatches 3×6,

Deadlifts 3×6

Front squats 6×6 ( after last set 50%weight off and 3-5 times FASTER, to turn strength more in explosion)

Bench 6×6 (after last set, same as in squats)

Additional: dumbbell flyes, box jumps (after squats, with a thought to turn strength more in explosion)

I do not push through failure at all, i lift as explosively as i can, with full
Power and i stop well before failure. Every week i add a little bit more weight and take one rep off like 1 week 6×6, second 6×5, third 6×4. Fourth i rest, i do like 3×3 than at the end of the week i test my lifts on singles so i know how strong I became. i rest some 3-5min before setts, if i go faster than i actually do not recover to do the next set with full power.


Warm up – sprint exercises.

Throws: like 12 stands, 20 full throws.

Explosive overhead shot throws 6x

Explosive Kettle bell throws 6x

Long jump from a stand

Short 20m sprints for 3sets

And so on, till Saturday. Sunday – rest. Before and after each session i do stretching. As you can see, i do only 1 session a day, on Monday 3hours, Tuesday 1hr30min – 2hr. During morning, at 7:30 i eat oatmeal with honey and berries,

9:30 i eat 3-6 boiled eggs with something green, like spinach or some other leafy vegetables. I also take CPMPLEX BCAA AMINOS in addition. Lunch- Beef or chicken (boiled), with salad and rice or brown rice or buckwheat (if you know what it is) i believe it is not popular in US. And i have some snack, like figs or dates, i love them. If i do train in afternoon, I have some sleep, 30min-1hr (i believe that is the best pre-workout) than i eat a little oatmeal 1hr before workout, to have energy, I don’t get full, but so i don’t feel hungry. After workout i take creatine. Dinner- I eat a big bowl of different vegetables with a little of vinegar, peppers and turmeric.

So if we compare to what i did and what i do now, i do not spend that much time in the gym during session, i do not eat that much, i do not waste money on supplements, but the results are getting a little better already. I am getting faster. And I went from 301 to 275lbs. I also did some split in eating.

During session period- i just take same 3 exercises like, bench, half squats, hang snatch ( or clean+push) or hang cleans , just to explode, doing for like 4×3. Session lasts no more than 45-60 min. I do 2 sessions per week. I work more on skill and speed.

Should i do 3 times a week weights if have competition after 3 weeks?

And should i do full snatches and cleans, or i do better hang snatches and cleans, should i do half squats or add some deep squats as well?

I eat the same, maybe a little less, and i add meat on dinner. I am full time student; i don’t have big pressure and stress, just sometimes with studies, but not all the time. Most of the time is for training, and i want to become much better. I would like to read some suggestions.

I was also doing like 8 reps, 6 reps, also 5, 3, 2, later in offseason, but they were done often through failure.

My response:

Re: Athletics – shot put, discus throw.
From: “George Ironthumb” <>
Date: Wed, May 27, 2015 9:06 am
To: “#############
Priority: Normal


Thank you for your message!

You gave me your entire regimen and your diet. You didn’t mention any specific stressor like family kids and stuff so that’s great. I do miss that life as well when all I did was lift, eat and go to school. But what I see in your program is that you are now making the same mistake that did when I was a shot-putter (since we really didn’t have an actual athletics coach because of lack of budget), so I trained back then and lifted, got bigger, but not stronger.

That mistake was “failure”

Yes I know that if you read AL, most of the mass-oriented articles would recommend that you go to failure. But it is not a great idea to do so if your goal is strength and I mentioned that as well in this article:

“In short, we will train your pecs like how the powerlifters do – and they don’t reach for failure because their goal is to just increase their strength and not to induce microtrauma to their muscle fibers – which is the most effective way to achieve sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (muscles getting bigger in layman’s term) and again that is NOT their goal; their only goal is gradual increase in load capacity and such is what we are going to adapt for now.”

I do apologize for the lack of emphasis on this. I will do my best to mention this fact more often in the future.

What you want to do now is to basically just keep on doing what you are doing, but now, whenever you lift, always leave some in the tank. Do it like how the Russians do when they train. Lift heavy and try to explode but always leave some reps. Example: you can do 300lbs for 5 reps. make it to 3 or 4 reps, but do it for 6 sets (or ten sets if you can).

With this I can assure you that you can train more while you gain more strength. Please read that article above as well, I am sure it will help you a lot.

And you see; part of what you are experiencing is the effect of micro-trauma injuries (from failure) and CNS fatigue (brought about by heavy and explosive lifts). By removing momentary failure from your training, your body only needs to worry about CNS fatigue to which it could recover faster from making you train more often and perform better.

Still include your rest days, if not add more if you wish. Limit your gym time to 2 hours (less the better). Eliminate chit chats – since sometimes that increases your gym time. You want to just go to gym and lift and then leave a.s.a.p. to get another meal.

Your diet, nothing to change there, your diet is actually good and it sounds like you are indeed eating well. No need for Aminos IMO, if you can just drink lots of servings of good whey-isolate shakes like Gold standard (the cheapest for its value on the market). Keep it up with the creatine. But you can still take them off course, nothing bad about them. Your supplementation is indeed superb and well-funded if you ask me, which can only do you good.

So to sum it all up:

You regimen no change needed in its structure and programs, just eliminate the “failure” part (might take a while to get used to). With diet, no changes as well.

Hope that helps and get back to me with updates.


Subject: Re: Athletics – shot put, discus throw.
From: “###############
Date: Wed, May 27, 2015 1:01 pm
To: “George Ironthumb” <>
Priority: Normal
Status: answered

Well i actually have a coach, but i don’t trust him. I feel that his knowledge isn’t good about power and speed building, because he actually supports training through failure. This is why i search the additional info. He sat by me many sessions and saw that i torture myself with heavy squats going through failure. All he said: “yeah, good effort, way to go”. Ok, effort was good, but not to improve what i wanted to improve, so just pointless.

All that new regiment i wrote you, it is actually based on what i found on Very simple, and it works, i already feel improvement. Thank you for the information. Very good, simple, no b.s., just to the point. This site actually should be more popular, i mean worldwide, not just in US. So more and more athletes start to actually understand what are they doing and don’t spend years miserable doing the things that does not support their aims in sport. Keep up the good work. Thank you. I will do updates 😉

And there you have it!! Another satisfied reader from the NO BS system of About Lifting. I am really glad that we are helping people around the world achieve results. And thank you Shot, for sharing with us your experience and agreeing to turn this exchange into an article.

For the rest of you out there please do not hesitate to ask questions via email. You can tell me if you are willing to have your question answered on an article. Email me to ask questions or simply to boast some latest lifts or results that you have achieved whether you use our method or not. If you want to share your latest sports achievement and have it shown in this website, or if you want the world to see your improvements thru training please do not hesitate to hit me an email and tell me about it. Or simply send me a message to say “hi”, “I love you”, etc. LMAO

A-Lifter- Don't forget to leave your comment/feedback below.  If this article was helpful, I am sure our book Real Talk Muscle will help you even more in your quest for muscle gain. Check it out you can read the first few chapters as well.

Eat your eggs, people!

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