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What to do When You Fail

By Ben Corbishley

“Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up again”

No one wants to fail a lift, in a perfect world we would hit every attempt and get stronger every session. However, in reality that just doesn’t happen. The other day I failed the third rep of squats on a set of 160x3, which I had got for 2 sets of 3 the week before. It was annoying, but ultimately just one of those things. We all fail lifts now and again but you should never be scared of failing. There is a multitude of reasons why you might fail a lift, from not having eaten enough to being too tired or to being too fatigued and they’re never fun. However, failing lifts are a great learning experience and can highlight certain weak points. For instance, if you fail at locking out your bench press it could be an issue with your triceps strength. Similarly, if you struggle with getting out of the hole when you squat it would be worth doing some pause reps at a lower weight.

Here, we are going to give you some variations of compound lifts that can help with technique and performance. As always, these lifts are supplementary to your compounds and are not gospel, everyone has unique weak points.

Pause reps -

The idea of a pause rep is exactly what it sounds like, you pause the movement at a certain point. For instance ,the bottom of a squat, mid point of a squat, or on your chest on bench. pause reps are great for helping build explosive power as they take out/reduce the momentum from the lift. Pause reps can be done with any of your compound lifts and are a great addition when your lifts start to plateau.

Lift variations -

Lift variations such as Larsen press on bench and deficit deadlifts can be great at breaking through plateaus. The Larsen press is a variation of a feet up bench press, where you lie on the bench with your legs out straight. It improves your stability on bench and limits your ability to arch/drive your bum up, thus improving your actual chest/arm pressing strength.

Deficit deadlifts are simply deadlifts where you stand on a box/plate etc. so that your starting position is higher. Deficit deadlifts are great if you struggle with breaking the floor and they can help to build your lower back strength too.

Accessory work -

Working on isolating certain muscles can carry over really well to your compound movements. Struggling with grip on deadlift? Try pinching plates for time or holding lat pulldowns for longer. Weak core on your squat? Work on your plank. The possibilities are endless.


Just remember, every failure is a learning experience, there’s always a reason why we fail and this can be for numerous different reasons. If you can change it then great, if you can’t then keep your head up, stay strong and remember to pick yourself up again because with enough experimentation you will break that plateau.

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