Burnout Sets

by Neil Anderson

They say, "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger," right?  Well Burnout Sets are here to prove it.  They are one of the most painful things you can do in terms of working out.  If done right, they are also one of the most useful for building muscle. 

A Burnout Set is a set of exercise done to exhaustion, usually with lighter weight, normally performed at the end of a given scheme of exercise.  

Example:

5-5-5 front squat AHAP + 50% burnout 
rest 3-5 min between each set 

This would mean to perform 3 sets of front squats at your 5 rep max.  Then, after the last set and the prescribed period of rest, perform a max rep Burnout Set with 50% of the highest weight used during the workout.    

So, if the highest weight you used during one of your 3 sets of 5 squats was 200 lbs, you should wait the prescribed rest time (3-5 min here), then complete as many reps as is safely possible using 100 lbs.  

Burnout Sets are primarily about increasing blood flow to the muscles.  By continuously lifting a (relatively) heavy weight until the muscle is completely fatigued, it forces change deep within the muscle cells.  These changes allow for more sarcoplasmic fluid within the muscle.  This translates to you being able to do more work for a given set of exercise. More work completed per workout means more strength, more fitness, and more function. It also looks better on!  

Strict body-building form should be employed when doing burnouts.  This technique (burnouts) is NOT about seeing how many reps you can possibly do.  It is about fatiguing a particular muscle or group of muscles.  Aiming for high reps at all costs will likely cause you to recruit other, non related, muscle groups and movement patterns.  This takes away from the purpose of the exercise.  It is better, instead, to slow-down, form-up, simply endure the pain! 

This seems like a painfully patronizing thing to say, but I'll put it out there with my apologies.  Remember, while performing burnouts, there are positions you may put yourself into that you may never be able to get out of safely.  'Nuf said.