Fail First, Then Grow
Should you fail before you even really get started? At least two scientific studies say yes. In the first, published in the July 2015 issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology, subjects performed one set of leg extensions, using 20 percent of their one-rep max (1RM) and repping to failure. They then did three sets of eight to 12 reps at 75 percent of their 1RM, a routine they repeated twice per week. After eight weeks, the pre-exhaust group increased their 1RM, the cross-sectional area of their quadriceps, and their muscular endurance more so than the control group who just did the three sets of eight to 12. Research published in the January/February 2016 issue of The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness backed those results, but at a higher weight. Subjects in that study did a pre-exhaust leg-extension set at 80 percent of 1RM to failure to lead off their twice-weekly workouts, which consisted of three sets of 15 to 20 reps at 50 percent of 1RM. After eight weeks, those who added the additional pre-exhaust set experienced greater increases in one-rep strength, endurance, and work efficiency—although the quads did not grow more as a result. Still, though, a leadoff set to failure could give you a leg up in your training efforts.
It’s No Big Secret
Here’s why exercise order matters: It can affect hormonal responses, says a 2016 study published in the Asian Journal Of Sports Medicine. Researchers compared the effects of starting with large muscle groups first versus leading off with smaller bodyparts on serum insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), testosterone, and cortisol levels in 25 untrained college-aged men who did three sets of 10 reps maximum to near fatigue in their workouts. While the order didn’t impact the number of reps they could muster, and IGF-1 and testosterone increased immediately post-exercise for both protocols, doing large muscle group exercises first and then progressing to small muscle groups produced greater anabolic hormonal response compared to the reverse sequence in normal-weight men. Of course, in muscle building, hormones matter—so it makes sense to do legs, back, chest, and shoulders before arms, calves, and abs.
Vaporize Vaping With Weights
Got a nasty vaping habit that you’re trying to shake? Consider hitting the weights to help your cause, Brown University researchers suggest. They tested 25 long-term smokers, providing a brief smoking cessation counseling session and the nicotine patch before putting part of the group on a 12-week resistance-training program. According to the report in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, at three months, 46 percent of the resistance-trained group had abstained for seven days from smoking, compared to only 17 percent in the control group. After six months, 38 percent of the resistance-trained group reported seven days without a smoke break, compared to 17 percent of those who weren’t training; more prolonged abstinence rates were 15 percent and eight percent, respectively—almost double. Meanwhile, those training lost 1.3 pounds and half a percent of body fat, while the control group gained approximately that same amount on average.