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Fail No Fail (FNF) Program Overview

This 4-week program has you training to failure intelligently to make sure you... do... not... fail... to get bigger, stronger, and leaner.

Fail No Fail (FNF) Program

Training to failure is a variable that few people consciously program into their workouts. Defined as the point at which you can no longer continue a given set with proper form due to your muscles “failing” (or fatiguing), training to failure is a concept that’s often given a universal prescription – always train to failure, or never train to failure.

It’s not that simple, at least not if you want to maximize your gains in muscle size, strength, and fat loss. Muscle failure should be manipulated like any other training variable in your program (sets, reps, resistance, exercise selection, etc.).

That’s the premise of my 4-week Fail No Fail Program (FNF for short). Using a 5-day body-part split, you’ll systematically train to failure (and sometimes not train to failure) with different weight, set, and rep schemes to get bigger, stronger, and leaner.

Pardon the play on words, but my FNF program won’t fail to deliver results!

What it Means to Train to Failure

Before we get into the specifics of the FNF program, I want to explain what constitutes training to failure.

When you take a set to failure, it means reaching the point where you physically can’t perform one more rep with proper form. To put it another way, it’s when you have to compromise your technique or “cheat” the weight up due to the temporary fatigue in the muscle. After you take a rest, of course, you’ll be able to do more reps again with that weight, but on that one set you literally couldn’t have done another rep properly. That’s training to failure.

Some people think failure involves not being able to move the weight at all – say, you only get the weight halfway up on rep #8 of a given set, and it won’t budge any further. If you maintained proper form up to and including that rep, you’ve reached failure. But if your form broke down or you had to cheat on reps #6 or #7, you should’ve stopped sooner.

When you’re training, make your best judgment. If you think you could possibly do another rep on a set (even though your muscles are burning), but you’re not sure, give it a try. Maybe you’ll squeeze out that last rep, or maybe you’ll fail midway through it. Of course, it somewhat depends on the exercise. Failing in the middle of a rep on lat pulldowns or biceps curls is different (safer) than failing mid-set on barbell squats.

In other words, be smart about when to try and get that last rep if you’re unsure. And when doing a barbell squat or barbell bench press, make sure you either have a spotter or have the safety pins set up in a power rack (or both) in case you fully fail in the middle of a rep. Just remember that, when it comes to training to failure, never compromise your technique to get more reps. 

One more thing: You'll notice in the FNF program that some sets are not supposed to be taken to failure – namely, the first four sets of 5 reps for each muscle group. When I say a set of 5 reps should not be taken to failure, I mean that you do the 5th rep and are physically able to do another rep or two (or three) with good form, but you stop at 5. You leave "reps in the tank," so to speak. Just don't leave too many reps in the tank; if rep #5 was so easy that you know you could have done 5-10 more reps, the weight is too light. 

Different Approaches to Training to Failure

Let’s talk about a couple of main ways to manipulate the “training to failure” variable.

In my popular Shortcut to Size program, you take ALL sets to failure and keep the weight the same on all sets. However, you only have to hit the prescribed rep range on the first set, since your muscles will be fatigued on later sets and likely not able to complete the same number of reps as when they were fresh.

In 5, 3, 2 Strength, very few sets are taken to failure. For example, in the first five weeks, when using a 5x5 set/rep scheme (five sets of five reps on each main lift), you use the same weight on all sets and must complete all 5 reps on all 5 sets. This basically means that you can only take the very last set to failure; if you went to failure on the first set at 5 reps, you wouldn’t be able to hit that many reps on subsequent sets.

These are two very different methods of completing reps and sets and training to muscle failure,...

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