Every movement has its breaking point. The key is to know if your breaking point for an exercise is the intended one. Whether you are seeing how many repetitions you can do without stopping or testing the amount of weight you can lift eventually you will hit that point of failure.
To figure this out simply ask yourself what “gave out” when you were not able to do the movement. The muscles that reach failure should be the same that you are trying to train.
For instance if you are maxing out a front squat what happens when you can’t lift the weight? When squatting you are focusing on leg strength so hopefully those muscles are burning out. However, a lot of the times we see that really it is athlete’s wrists or shoulders that become the limiting factor. If this is the case try adjusting the movement so that you are failing in the right way.
How to Adjust
Below are a few movements, ways we see them go wrong, and how you could adjust them to get more out of them.
Front squat → You should reach failure in the legs or core. Avoid wrist and shoulder fatigue by crossing your arms or using a safety bar.
Core movements → When doing abdomen exercises this is where you should burn out. When doing movements like toes to bar many lose their grip or shoulders instead of their abs. Even sit-ups can affect an athlete’s neck before their abs reach fatigue. Try substituting static movements like planks or 3 month taps for these more dynamic exercises.
Pull-ups → One of the under reported issues with overhand pull-ups is the pressure many feel in their elbows. If you get pain in your forearm when performing pull-ups try switching up your grip in order to work your biceps and back more. Use rings or an underhand grip in order to find this correct stimulus.
These are just a few examples, but next time you perform a movement to failure ask yourself what specific piece actually failed. Then adjust the movement so you train the muscles you are focusing on.