The Secret to A Successful Workout

The Secret To a Successful workout

Woman experiencing muscle failure

The secret to a successful workout is…

NOT the equipment.
NOT the cold water in between exercises.
NOT even the incredible Trainers. 😲

Though all of those things can vastly improve the quality of your workout, the true secret to getting everything you want out of a training session is this-

Muscle Success.

In this article we discuss the necessity of achieving temporary muscle failure in your workouts and why it's the ultimate goal of every exercise you ever do.

“Muscle Success” should be your goal every time you workout.

By muscle success you might think I mean better tone, firmer muscles, greater strength, or more lean muscle tissue that burns extra calories. Each of those certainly represents a type of success, but I'm referring to something else by the term “muscle success.”

So what do I mean by “muscle success”?

You're pushing or pulling as hard as you can, and the weight refuses to budge even a fraction of an inch because your muscles have become so fatigued. You're attempting to make the weight move, but it's momentarily impossible for you to do so.

If you continue maximally pushing or pulling for several more seconds to make sure you're really at this point of muscle success, you'll have achieved deep momentary fatigue in the targeted muscles. 

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Why is Muscle Success Important?

It’s when the greatest benefits for your body are stimulated. This deep momentary fatigue in the muscle sends a strong signal to your body that it needs to get stronger, improve muscle tone, and increase your metabolism.

Within certain limits, the deeper you momentarily fatigue your muscles, the greater the changes you stimulate in your body.

But this isn’t exactly easy to achieve on your own. It's certainly a lot easier to quit each set of repetitions before you reach muscle success. Which is why working with a Personal Trainer is so beneficial.

Fatiguing down to this success point during a set of repetitions is not fun while you're actually doing it. It's uncomfortable. Your muscles often vibrate and burn. But it's the best thing you can do to generate results from your training.

The fun part is that each full body workout is only 20 minutes and results that are stimulated from achieving muscle success on each exercise are enormous: 

  1. Greater strength 
  2. More endurance 
  3. Additional calorie-burning lean muscle tissue 
  4. Reversing age related muscle loss (sarcopenia) 
  5. Increased metabolism for how many calories 
  6. Improved fat loss 
  7. Stronger bones 
  8. Reversing aging of muscle cells (express younger DNA in the nuclei) 
  9. Improved cardiovascular fitness 
  10. Improved cholesterol levels 
  11. Lower blood pressure 
  12. Improved low back pain
  13. Better blood sugar control you burn even while you're resting 
  14. Improved immune system 
  15. A number of other benefits 
reasons why muscle success, Man experiencing muscle failure

Even more benefits

I’d like to discuss two benefits of muscle success which aren’t talked about as often: cardiovascular health and an objective way to track your progress. 

The Journal of Exercise Physiology examined the same topic which looked at 157 studies, focused on the cardiovascular benefits provided by strength training to muscle success. 

While strength training in general provides several improvements to the cardiovascular system, the authors noted that many benefits are received or amplified only when training to muscle success. 

For example, after three months of training, men and women of various ages had enduring improvements in overall blood flow due to muscle success. Training to complete exhaustion increased artery size in another study. This is positive as larger arteries are less likely to experience a heart attack-causing blockage in the same way that adding lanes to a highway reduces the chances of having a traffic jam. 

Pushing to muscle success also increases the ability of arteries to expand when blood flow increases, which reduces the stress experienced by artery walls. 

Training to muscle success benefits your health in ways that may not occur if you train with lower intensity and don’t reach that point. 

Muscle Failure infographic

performance tracking

Also, you gain the benefit of an objective assessment of your performance. 

If you reach muscle success when lifting 200 pounds in 60 seconds on the leg press, we have measures of your current ability in regards to your leg and hip strength. 

If you arbitrarily stopped at 60 seconds (sick of feeling “the burn,” bored, etc.), the time you lifted for doesn’t provide us with any objective information. 

Who knows how much longer you could have performed the set for? 

If you train for 70 seconds the following session, we cannot say it’s an improvement – you may have been capable of that performance during your previous visit.

As you see, in addition to improvements in strength and appearance, muscle success stimulates greater changes in your cardiovascular system and gives you a way to objectively measure your progress. Therefore, the next time you encounter the discomfort of the last few reps, keep pushing. I promise: the extra effort is worth it. 

Muscle failure workout data
muscle failure graph for chest press

the magic happens at fatigue

I've experienced firsthand the difference that achieving muscle success can make. Prior to stumbling upon slow-motion strength training in 1992, I used to exercise with traditional methods of weight training for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week – 12 total hours of exercise per week. 

I would rarely (if ever) fatigue to the point of muscle success on any of my exercises -lengthy workouts require pacing yourself with a lower level of effort, which reduces how intensely you're able to train. 

When I tried slow-motion strength training I learned to fatigue all the way to muscle success on every set of each workout, and my results improved dramatically as a result. 

Muscle Failure-Matt Hedman Founder

My superior results were because I'd learned to make my muscles work harder. The higher intensity-pushing harder at the end of each exercise stimulated much better improvements in my body. And because my effort and intensity were significantly higher than before, by necessity my workouts had to be shorter. 

I advocate moving very slowly during every weight training repetition (approximately 10 seconds to lift the weight on each rep). But for results, fatiguing to the point of muscle success is actually more important than how slowly you move. 

Moving slowly during strength training is beneficial for great results too. It's just that reaching muscle success plays an even bigger role for results. Ideally you want to both achieve muscle success and move very slowly on every exercise. 

On each of your exercises as you near muscle success and your repetitions start to get challenging, try to cultivate a mindset of looking forward to the burning and shaking sensations you're experiencing. It’s where the magic happens!

Reference 

Steele, J., Fisher, J., McGuff, D., Bruce-Low, S., & Smith, D. (2012). Resistance training to momentary muscular failure improves cardiovascular fitness in humans: a review of acute physiological responses and chronic physiological adaptations. J Exerc Physiol15, 53-80.

Burn More Calories: During a Workout vs. After?

How many calories do you burn during a workout vs. after?

One of the most common questions we hear is, “How many calories did I burn from my workout?”

To help answer that question, let’s talk money.

The traditional method for making money is exchanging time for money. 

You finish a project or complete a few days of work, and you’re compensated for those hours or work that you completed. You work 40 hours in a week and you’re paid for that week in the following paycheck. It’s a one-time compensation for the work completed. This is the common model of making money, and the traditional lens through which people think about burning calories.

Another way to make money is receiving residual income. A person works to complete a product or service, then receives ongoing payments or royalties after the work is already done. An example of this is writing a book and receiving continued payments for the book as it continues to sell. 

For many, the most valued benefit of exercise is that it “burns” calories, which can help with weight loss or maintaining weight loss (calories are technically “expended,” but “burned” is the more popular phrase). 

Traditionally, we look at exercise through the “time for money” model. We judge exercise by how many calories we burned during the workout, as if a workout was a one-time payment. Viewing exercise in this way is both right and wrong. 

Exercise is exchanging time for calories burned, but workouts also have residual benefits where you continue to burn calories after the workout. This is especially true for exercise at The Perfect Workout.

The Perfect Workout Client Strength Training

Calories Burned During the Workout

Hustling through your session at The Perfect Workout must count for something, right? Yes! 

The effort you put into moving quickly through your exercises makes the training more beneficial in a few ways, including increasing the calories burned during your workout. 

According to data from Harvard Health Publishing, exercise similar to The Perfect Workout burns about 4-8 calories per minute. 

Calories burned per minute are influenced by whether a person truly reaches “muscle success” on each exercise, how quickly a person moves when transitioning between exercises, and by how much the person weighs (heavier people burn more calories when working at the same intensity).

Using the Harvard data, a 20-minute session could expend 80 to 160 calories.

Calories Burned After the Workout

As noted before, The Perfect Workout burns calories not only during the session but with residual calories after the workout as well. 

A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that a single workout can increase metabolism up to 72 hours afterwards. The metabolism increase in the study was about 70-90 extra calories burned per day. 

This post-workout benefit doesn’t happen with all types of activity. Most activities, such as walking, riding a bike, and jogging, are limited to the calories burned only during the activity. 

Strength training’s intensity boosts metabolism for a prolonged period due to a few factors: 

  • replenishing stored glucose
  • converting lactic acid into glucose
  • elevated levels of some neurotransmitters and hormones
  • returning core temperature and breathing rate to normal levels

In slow-motion strength training workouts, you burn calories during the session and for days after. Evaluating The Perfect Workout through the traditional lens of only calories burned during the session would underestimate it’s value because you forget about all the calories you burn AFTER the workout. 

Combining the workout and post-workout estimates, a workout could burn anywhere from 200 to 340 calories. When considering that this all comes from a single 15-20-minute session, the calories spent for your work is definitely a return on investment.

New to slow-motion strength training? Try an Intro Workout today!

How to Build Strong, Defined Thighs

how to build strong, defined thighs

Personal Trainer Mill Valley CA

Want firmer thighs and a lifted booty? The Leg Curl is an exercise you don’t want to skip. If you’ve been training with us, you know our 20-minute workouts target the entire body including one of the biggest muscles- the hamstrings. If having a strong, firm thighs and a lifted backside is something you’re striving for… keep reading.

The Muscles Used

The hamstrings are large muscles that make up the back of your thighs and are the primary movers worked in the Leg Curl. In addition to the hamstrings, this power exercise also targets the calves. These main muscles targeted by the Leg Curl are largely responsible for the appearance of your thighs and lower legs and train the muscles that are responsible for running speed. To learn how to target the hamstrings along with your buttocks, read our article on the Leg Press.

How it Works

The hamstrings contract to provide knee flexion, which is the technical name for the movement performed during the Leg Curl.

Each hamstring is a group of four muscles that start on your pelvis (around the bottom of your buttocks), cover the backs of your thighs and attach to the lower leg, just below your knee.

The hamstrings have two major functions: to flex your knee, and pull your thigh backward (hip extension). Performing the exercise looks like this:

  1. The Leg Curl (seated in particular) begins with you seated and legs stretched out in front of you in between two pads.
  2. Your feet are flexed with toes pointing straight up to engage the muscles in the back of the leg and upper body is upright and relaxed.
  3. As you begin to move the weight, you’re trying to pull your heels close to your buttocks, keeping your toes pointed up throughout the entire range of motion.
  4. Once you have reached your full range of motion- you’ve brought your heels back as far as they can go, you want to squeeze your hamstrings in the contracted position for approximately 3 seconds and slowly resist the weight back to the beginning position.

Like all exercises, you avoid resting in between repetitions and slowly push yourself to reach Muscle Success.

Why Do It?

Building the muscle fibers in the hamstrings can provide a firm appearance to the backs of the thighs, and can also create an ovular shape. This can be seen if you look at the back of someone’s thighs from a side view.

The Leg Curl is a very efficient exercise, in that the calves (gastrocnemius) assist the hamstrings in flexing the knees. Many women wear high-heeled shoes because the elevated heels force the calves to contract, making the leg look more defined and shapely. Using the Leg Curl can create that same muscularity in the lower legs without needing the shoes.

Hamstrings in Day-to-Day Function

The hamstrings are a major muscle group responsible for pulling the leg down after the knee rises.

The foot drives into the ground and propels you forward. The acceleration comes from the leg and foot being pulled down as fast as possible. The faster the foot can move downward, the greater the acceleration.

For any athlete who sprints, such as those playing baseball, softball, and football, the Leg Curl trains a muscle that is critical to maximizing acceleration. You don’t need to be an athlete or play competitive sports to benefit from this exercise. Performing the Leg Curl regularly will help to improve leg strength and overall mobility for anyone.

Maximizing Your Leg Curl in 2 Minutes or Less

In order to get the most out of your 1-2 minutes on the Leg Curl, your coach will help you achieve these three things:

  1. Full Range of Motion: A full range of motion helps to give a thorough workout to the targeted muscles. Think “heels to butt” and give those hammies a big squeeze as you strive for each repetition.
  2. Flex Your Feet: A fuller range of motion can be accomplished when the ankles are dorsi flexed, meaning the tops of your feet are pulled towards your shins. If your toes are pointed down as you flex your knees, your calves will be multitasking with two responsibilities, and they will do poorly in each. Keep your toes up to make sure your calves can do their best in flexing your knees.
  3. Muscle Success: You knew it was coming! Achieving muscle success by fully fatiguing the hamstrings will help you build the strength you’re looking for.


Whether you desire firm, rounded thighs or to run faster during your favorite sport, the Leg Curl is a quick & efficient way to achieving strong and sexy stems. Strengthen your legs and define your entire body with a 20-minute workout.

Exercise’s Most Productive Time (don’t skip this)

don't skip this part! - exercise's most productive time

If I could pick just one issue that would have the biggest impact on most peoples' exercise results, it would be to increase their effort level when an exercise gets hardest and most challenging. This means increasing the effort right at the end of a set of repetitions on each exercise. This certainly would be my #1 recommendation to people who exercise on their own either at a regular gym or at home. And even for our company's own personal training clients, I find that although on the whole our clients work much harder during their workouts than most other people who exercise, many of our clients could achieve even better fitness results if they gave even more effort at the most productive time.

What “even more effort at the most productive time” means in practical terms is to carry every set of strength training repetitions to the point of “muscle success.” Muscle success is the point on an exercise at which after several repetitions your muscles become so fatigued that completing another repetition is not just difficult, it's actually impossible. You're pushing or pulling as hard as you can, and the weight refuses to budge even a fraction of an inch because your muscles have become so fatigued. You're attempting to make the weight move, but it's momentarily impossible for you to do so. If you continue maximally pushing or pulling for several more seconds to make sure you're really at this point of muscle success, you'll have achieved deep momentary fatigue in the targeted muscles.

Deep fatigue in the muscle sends a strong signal to your body that it needs to get stronger, improve muscle tone, and increase your metabolism. Within certain limits, the deeper you momentarily fatigue your muscles, the greater the changes you stimulate in your body.

Although this next point may sound counterintuitive, in a lot of ways long workouts are easier than briefer “high-intensity” workouts. How can a long workout be easier than a (properly performed) brief workout? Because in order to exercise for a long period of time, you can't push yourself really hard on each of the exercises you're performing. You have to pace yourself at a lower intensity to workout for a long period of time.

I've experienced this firsthand. Prior to stumbling upon slow-motion strength training in 1992, I was doing resistance training for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week – 12 total hours of exercise per week. I would rarely (if ever) fatigue to the point of muscle success on any of my exercises (lengthy workouts require pacing yourself with a lower level of effort, which reduces how intensely you're able to train). When I tried slow-motion strength training, I learned to fatigue all the way to muscle success on every set of each workout, and my results improved significantly (I added 10 pounds of lean muscle tissue during the first 9 days). Plus, the amount of time I spent exercising was FAR less (reduced from 12 hours a week to about an hour a week).

My dramatically improved results weren't because I was working out less, though. It was because I'd learned to make my muscles work harder. The higher intensity (pushing harder at the end of each exercise) stimulated better improvements in my body. And because my effort and intensity were much higher than before, I couldn't sustain that high effort level for very long. So the extra intensity didn't just significantly improve my results, it also necessitated briefer workouts.

It's certainly a lot easier to terminate each set of repetitions before you reach “muscle success” and do a much longer workout than it is to “gut it out” and take each set you perform to a deep level of muscular fatigue. But stopping short of muscle success will make your workouts less productive.

Taking a set of repetitions to this muscle success point is not fun while you're doing it. It's uncomfortable. Your muscles often vibrate and burn. But it's the best thing you can do to generate results from your training. The fun part is the results you get afterward in stronger muscles, enhanced cardiovascular efficiency, faster metabolism, stronger bones, and added body-shaping lean muscle tissue.

A fair amount of people have a lot of difficulty pushing themselves to work hard enough to achieve “muscle success” as described above. If pushing every set to this muscle success point is more challenging than you're able to do on each exercise, at least make sure to fatigue the muscles as deeply as you can on each set. The deeper you fatigue the muscles, the more effective the stimulus is, and it will require more significant adaptations from your body.

So, when your repetitions start to get challenging, try to cultivate a mindset of looking forward to the burning and shaking sensations you're experiencing. That's where it's beginning to get really productive!

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