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Learning how to safely fail a rep can help prevent injury and make you more confident with weight lifting in general. Here is a personal trainer’s advice on safely failing four common weight lifting movements.

Lifting weights tends to be a process of trial and error. Figuring out the correct form, attempting to increase your weight and finding the motivation to actually get under the barbell can all feel frustrating at times. But failure is a normal part of strength training and so it’s something you’re going to have to get comfortable with, mentally and physically.

If you’re trying to lift heavy weights and max out for one rep, there is a chance you might be unable to do the movement (aka failing the rep). It’s therefore really important that you know how to fail a rep safely in order to avoid injury.

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When maxing out a weight lifting movement, the most useful thing you can do is have a spotter, $9 ventolin hfa who can help you with the weight if you’re unable to lift it. According to personal trainer Hannah Ashby, there are a few other useful steps you can take to make your lifting safer: “Make sure you have lots of room and the areas around you are clear,” she says. “You should also use bumper plastic plates rather than metal ones so you can safely drop them if you need to.”

“It’s important to know how to fail a rep properly because when you’re lifting at your maximum weight, you are at risk of injuring yourself and the people around you,” Ashby continues. She explains that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to fail a rep, as long as it isn’t happening frequently. “You shouldn’t test your maximum weight more than every six weeks,” she says. “But sometimes you might end up pushing yourself to failure in order to understand where your progress is at.”

If you do feel fatigued, it’s best to stop lifting weights before you reach the point of failure. But just in case you do end up failing a rep, it’s a good idea to practice doing so with lighter bumper plates on a barbell before you test your maximum weight.

Here, Ashby explains the safest way to fail four common weight lifting movements.

Back squats

Barbell back squats are one of the more tricky weight lifting movements to fail, as the bar is resting on your back, so it’s definitely worth practising failing this movement with lighter weights. “To fail a back squat, lean back and let go of the bar so it drops behind you and take a step forward,” Ashby recommends.

Avoid leaning forward and make sure there is no one around you. If you do have a spotter, make sure you tell them before you let go of the bar to let it fall backwards.

Front squats

Barbell front squats are a lot easier to fail because you’re holding the bar in front of you rather than balancing it on your back. “Push the bar out in front of you as soon as you feel like you might fail,” Ashby says. “Try to control it down in front of you as much as possible then take a step backwards.”

Again, make sure the area is clear so you don’t put anyone else at risk of injury


Similarly to front squats, deadlifts are fairly simple to fail. The most important thing to remember with deadlifts is that you should never compromise your form. “Make sure you’re lifting safely before you try and max out,” Ashby says. “If you are going to fail a deadlift, you can simply drop the bar but try to drop it before compromising your form.”

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Bench press

A bench press is a movement that can put you at risk of injury if you fail it, so Ashby recommends always having a spotter when attempting a heavy bench press. She also suggests avoiding putting clamps on the bar so you can drop the plates to one side if necessary.

It can be dangerous to drop the bar onto your chest, so if you’re concerned about this happening, practise chest pressing with dumbbells until you feel confident. “If the bar does end up on your chest, roll the bar to your waist and try to sit up so you can safely move it to the floor,” Ashby recommends. Do not try to re-rack the weight over your head.

Disclaimer: beginners should always ensure they enlist the help of a personal trainer or spotter when lifting heavy weights.

Images: Getty

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