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Evidence-based articles & blogs to help with making training more effective, nutrition more flexible & life more enjoyable.


You're Not Training Hard Enough

Why do we need to train so hard to grow? Because muscle growth is stimulated by mechanical tension.

If there is one thing people completely f*ck up, when they’re trying to build muscle…

It’s not doing the wrong exercises…

It’s not using the wrong rep ranges…

It’s not forgetting to do supersets or drop sets or myoreps…

The biggest mistake people make in the gym is…

They are exercising.

But they’re not training.

Exercise is great! There’s nothing wrong with exercise.

Exercise looks like this:

- Smiling during set;

- Talking during set;

- Finishing the set after getting “a bit of a burn”.

Training looks like this:

- Locked in for the set. Concentrating.

- Has a rep target to hit

- Doesn’t stop when the set gets hard or the burning starts…

- Only stops the set when the target is met…

Sometimes that’s failure, sometimes that’s a couple of reps left in the tank.

Why do we need to train so hard to grow?

Because muscle growth is stimulated by mechanical tension.

Let’s start from the top.

Muscles are made up of thousands of muscle fibres. 

When your brain sends the signal for that muscle to contract, some fibres get activated to perform the task like lift that weight.

(There’s an intermediary called motor units, which house bundles of muscle fibres, but stick with me…)

Our body is lazy - it wants to conserve energy.

So it only recruits the muscle fibres it needs, in order to perform the task.

If the task is easy, only a small amount of muscle fibres are recruited.

But if a task is challenging - like when you push close to failure…

That’s when more and more fibres get recruited.

It’s not a linear approach either, it’s exponential.

The fibres are activated in groups (those are the motor units) and the biggest motor units which contain the most amount of muscle fibres only get recruited right at the end - when the muscle is being challenged to it’s maximum (or near failure).

So if we’re just exercising and going through the motions, we might only be stimulating a few hundred muscle fibres. That’s not a lot of growth!

But when we take the set close to failure, thousands of muscle fibres get stimulated and we see the most mechanical tension and therefore muscle growth.

So don’t worry about the next fancy exercise or training protocol…

Don’t worry about perfecting your macro split or nutrient timing.

Worry about the basic principle of generating mechanical tension.

You do that, by training close to true failure.

But remember…

Training hard doesn’t mean ego lifting. In fact it’s actually the opposite.

Training hard means when the set is getting hard and you feel the urge to use momentum and throw the weight around… Fight that urge.

There’s a saying “every exercise is a lower back exercise if you ego lift enough”.

Do you want a big lower back, or big biceps?

Fight the urge, concentrate.

So how do you know whether you’re actually training hard enough to grow?

There are two things I look for in client form videos.

Number One: Involuntarily slowing of the concentric.

What the hell does that mean?

It means… When you’re doing rep after rep…

Eventually you’re going to be pushing on the weight as hard as possible, but it’s not going to move as fast as previous reps.

That’s a great sign you’re getting to “full motor unit recruitment” which means stimulating all of the muscle fibres to grow. 

So if you finish your set and rep number 10 moved just as fast as rep number one…

Maybe do a few more reps.

Number Two: Facials.

I know it sounds silly, but hear me out…

Not a single human in the history of the earth has ever taken a set close to failure…

Whilst also maintaining a straight face.

I’ve never seen it.

Have you ever seen those influencers who post 7-minute At Home Ab Workouts and they look great the entire time?

Yeah… That’s 7 minutes of your life you’re never going to get back.

If you’re not making the ugliest lifting face that even your mother couldn’t love, chances are you’re not training hard enough to build.

My number one recommendation for making sure you’re training hard enough is simply taking one set all the way to failure. Concentrate, don’t let your form break down. But take it to that point where you are pushing on the weight and nothing is happening.

Keep it safe, use a machine so you don’t get pinned underneath a bar.

But take yourself all the way there, and teach yourself that you’re capable of more than you think.

You got this!