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Speaking for myself I think I have found my precise intensity threshold breakover point for certain exercises, and I have discovered it with more people as well. Some more people I train are noticing themselves breaking out of plateaus they were stuck at for many weeks. I want to tell you about some interesting discoveries I have made. I have time on my hands right now, so I will type away.
I have been vising the new website by Dr. Ellington Darden, and have looked through his new book, New High Intensity Training. I persoanlly utilized the NFT method back in 1986 with several trainees with good success. Of coarse then I had the majority of trainees train about 2 times per week on average. So in essence I had them do one to failure workout and one sub failure workout in the same week. Since I now believe that the identification of the precise intensity threshold breakover point per individual, will yield maximal results and not just save the muscle′s from atrophy, I have been over the last few months seeking a valid approach to optimally determine this level. By using a descending intensity threshold curve, example: 100%,95%, 90%, 85%,80% together with an 80% inroad time under load specific to the individual and exercise used, and comparing one level of effort with another, all the while precisely regulating both volume and frequency to correspond to each intensity level utilized, I have been able to do a comparative analysis of each level of effort. My deductions so far are that people with really low time under loads with 80% of max. when utilizing full range, say 40 seconds with a relatively moderate standardized rep speed, need to train to about 60% of momentary failure. If for example their time under load is 40 seconds, then the precise breakover threshold point for these individuals in my experience at least seems to be about 60% or 24 seconds. I have determined this with a few of my really strong trainees, and they are continuing to increase in progressive overload at a 60% intensity level. I utilize mostly static holds, so I am extrapolating out to full range, based on what my clients have done in terms of a static hold time under load with 80% of max. with 60% of momentary failure. It would be the equivalent of doing 40 seconds or thereabouts of full range time under load, and then only going 60% effort within an 80% of max. context. I have clients who can do about 4 seconds to failure with 80% of max. in a static hold, and thus 60% effort intensity would be 2.4 seconds of load time.
I have come to see much more clearly just how imparative it is to modify intensity levels as one becomes increasingly stronger over time, and becomes capable of generating incredible amounts over overload. It may be fine to train to failure when just starting out and up to the point where the overloads you are using start to overwhelm the C.N.S. and other organic sub systems. But beyond this point it may be prudent to start to precisely identify and thus quantify intensity threshold levels, so as not to over inroad local muscle′s and much more important the systems that serve the whole grwoth process.
I know it may be hard to accept for many that anything lees than absolute momentary muscular failure is necessary for maximum progress, but as Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer and others have stated, that it is probably not necessary to go to failure to optimize progress, but that the precise breakover point cannot be determined because one cannot measure intensity level other than 100% and zero effort, thus training to failure ensures that you have crossed all possible threshold points to optimal results.
I realize this has been the problem and not just a blind dogmatic veiw that training that must be done to failure. That is why I want to share with you, and whomever you wish to share this with, a way to determine a precise breakover point, without going through all the trail and error necesary to get there, and also primarily to calm and quell any fear or reservations one might have if they do not train to the last second of load time. I realize that many people must have full confidence in what they engage in, in order to apply it, so here goes my attempt at helping some to gain that confidence.
It could be theoretically possible that intensity is inversely proportional to progressive overload. That is to say as one becomes progressively stronger over time. their momentary threshold intensity level must decrease gradually to the precise breakover point for a given level of muscular output. Maybe one could start out training to failure with no negative reprecussions, and even to a certain point in time with no negative effects, but as one climbs ever higher and overloads increase to over 100%+ of starting levels, the need to incrementally decrease momentary intensity threshold levels appears to become increasingly crucial for continual progress. I no that progress has been made by many training to failure on an ongoing basis for years and gains ahve been made by alternating failure with sub failure, but my question is have these gains been what Mike Mentzer used to term 100 units of possible progress every workout. I can only speak from my persoanl experience, but up to a definite point all my clients progress looked to them and me to be fantastic. So much for mere appearances, as some of them up to now have been stuck for a while, mind you at a high level, but stuck none the less. Now after adopting a precise breakover point for a given muscular output level at at given point in time, they are increasing again.
My suggestion is that one be willing to adjust their momentary effort in direct correlation with ongoing strength increases. Keep very accurate records of your percentage rate of strength increases from workout to workout. If your percentage rate of increase falls off even slightly then try lowering the percentage of momentary effort with 80% of your max. time under load number of seconds. Example if your find out that a time under load is 50 seconds with 80% of max. to a point of momentary failure, and have made great progress up to a point, have been progressing at a rate of 5% per workout( arbitrary figure)and have recently dropped off to 3 percent, still gaining but on the decline, thenn one thing that can be done is to begin to train at a level of 95% momentary effort or 47.5 seconds. Then make progressive resistance increases adopting this level of effort. Rememer though that everything must be in as proper context as it can be. With precise volume and frequency reqiuremnts that are specific and concurrent to the drop in intensity. Plus the drop is after everything that can be done interms of decreasing either or both volume and frequency specific to your current level of overload. When progress drops off again, reduce to progressive overload within a 90% intensity of effort context. Eventually through this descending intensity curve, you may actually stumble quite by accident your precise threshold intensity level, that is specific to your fiber type and N.E., irregardless of force output generated at a specific point in time, that corresponds to a cetain level of your strength at any given moment.