Positive Muscular Failure: Building Maximum Muscle In Minimum Time

Jay Campbell

By Jay Campbell

March 31st, 2022

 

Intelligent weight training will always be a fundamental part of a physique that is muscular, lean, and (most importantly) healthy.

But contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to sacrifice your family, friends, or lifestyle to achieve it.

In fact… I’ve devised a comprehensive resistance training program that will allow you to gain maximal lean muscle with minimal time spent in the gym.

One revolving entirely around the philosophy of positive muscular failure (PMF).

For the past 12 years, the #1 request from private coaching clients and my readers has been to create a video training series showing how this is done.

How a physique can be fully optimized in the clearest and most efficient way possible for men and women.

Now it’s here and available for the world:

Jay-Campbell-Monica-Campbell-Stiff-Arm-Pulldowns

Click here to get the PMF Video Training Program

But before you do, read this article first!

I want to explain exactly what PMF is, what it isn’t, and why it is the foundation of every weightlifting regimen I’ve ever written and followed.

What Is Positive Muscular Failure (PMF)?

MonicaCampbell-Seated-Cable-Curl

Positive muscular failure (PMF) is defined as being unable to perform the lifting portion of a weighted movement (i.e. concentric phase of a lift) without sacrificing proper technique, getting assistance from a machine, having a spotter help you, or resting.

Done correctly, the muscle and/or body part you are training will be blasted to total and complete exhaustion.

You literally should not be able to perform another rep of the movement unless you break one of the four rules mentioned.

This is separate from COMPLETE muscular failure, where you cannot perform the concentric (lifting) OR the eccentric (lowering) part of an exercise. 

PMF is superior in that the “stimulus and recovery” cycle can be repeated multiple times per year for maximal muscle gain

Training to PMF allows you to achieve the training intensity required to get visible results in the mirror.

Without the brutal intensity and focus demanded by PMF, you will not build muscle.

You will scratch your head as you wonder why you look the same after years of being in the gym.

It is an underlying component of any successful workout program.

And it’s the same reason why a newbie can get visible results with a shitty program:

As long as they train hard enough, there is a visible difference in appearance when the program is finished.

But positive muscular failure is much more than a single definition.

Six critical key tenets come forth as a result of basing any workout routine around PMF…

Jay-Monica-PMF-Training

Principle #1: Gaining Muscle Requires TIME And MASTERY

Take a look at the gym-goers around you. What do you see?

In case you haven’t been inside a fitness center due to the ongoing pandemic, rest assured you haven’t missed out on much.

What you’ll see is the same thing I’ve personally observed for 30+ years:

  • People who have zero clue of WHAT to do, or HOW to do something
  • People who blindly copy the hottest guy/girl because they want to look just like them
  • People who cause themselves unnecessary pain and injury
  • People who do not have an intentional plan when they step foot in the gym
  • People who get half-assed results (or none at all) after YEARS of “showing up consistently” to the gym

Granted, the people in group #5 are rare because very few people even take 4-5 hours out of their weekly schedule to do any type of exercise whatsoever.

Yet just a fraction of these individuals continue to improve their physique in a way where people’s heads turn. Where friends and co-workers start hitting them up for advice on how to hit the gym.

We’re talking the 1% of the 1%… 0.01% to be exact.

And what does this extremely small group of people have in common?

Consciously or unconsciously, they are using PMF as part of their training routine. 

But there’s another element these people have in common as a result of obeying PMF: Optimal neurological efficiency.

This refers to having a fully functional central nervous system that’s trained to endure an intense training stimulus over an extended period of time.

Ever see a newbie in the gym perform a rep for the first time?

They can do it no problem — but for some odd reason their muscles are shaking violently.

That’s because they lack (a) an adapted nervous system, and (b) minimal muscle mass.

At minimum, it takes one year of consistent training before your neuromuscular efficiency can handle PMF-style training.

And it will take YEARS – if not decades – to fully master PMF.

(Not the latest 90-day fad you’ve been promised by drug-infusing Instagram models!)

But when you attain mastery, you quickly realize more time in the gym is not necessarily better.

Maximal muscle fiber recruitment and force production is all you need… which means a highly productive 45-60 minute workout instead of a fatiguing 2-3 hour marathon.

Long story short:

If you are truly serious about building a world-class physique and mastering your training, there are no shortcuts to success.

Monica-Cable-Seated-Rows-PMF-Training

Principle #2: Skeletal Muscle Is The #1 Anti-Aging Asset You Have

“Jay, I understand PMF, but why the neurotic focus on building as much muscle as possible?”

I’ve written an entire guide on all of the reasons why a long and healthy life does not exist unless you are lean and muscular.

But I’ll summarize the main points here for brevity…

Lean muscle mass is the single greatest form of protection you have against age-related and lifestyle-induced disease. 

Here are just a handful of the health benefits associated with packing on skeletal muscle:

  • Higher metabolism to burn more calories while training, AND while at rest
  • Stronger immune system, protecting you against chronic inflammation
  • Preventing the wasting of muscle that comes with old age (i.e. sarcopenia)
  • Improving bone mineral density, thus protecting against bone tissue degradation
  • Increasing your chances of survival when you get into a physical accident
  • Lower blood sugar levels, thus elevating insulin sensitivity
  • Decreased levels of stress and anxiety
  • Better mitochondrial function

Can getting leaner and more muscular give you a youthful and more aesthetic appearance you can be proud to see in the mirror?

No question about it.

But building muscle transcends this three-dimensional desire to change what other people think of you.

It is your guaranteed key to graceful aging and a sound mind.

That’s why I believe EVERYONE – man, woman, old, young, short, tall, fat, skinny, already muscular – should be consistently exercising through a smart resistance training program.

Sure, you can choose to become more frail with old age…

… but knowing what you know now, why do that to yourself?

Plan to exercise 3-5x per week, for 30-60 minutes per session 

Principle #3: Maximal Contraction Of Targeted Muscle Fibers

This is what broscience refers to as the “mind-muscle connection”.

Remember when you went to the gym for the first time, did a few bicep curls, but never felt your bicep curls being “worked”?

That’s because you lacked the connection between your nervous system and the muscle fibers you want to contract.

This same connection is what allows trained individuals to contract their muscles more effectively and build muscle faster.

(It’s also why exercises on a machine are sometimes favored over compound movements — they focus all of your strength and might on a very specific part of your body)

The way I teach people how to master and strengthen this connection is through the “VCC” acronym:

  • Visualize — Picture yourself executing the movement perfectly in your mind. Truly SEE and FEEL the exercise before you perform it. No external distractions. Stay fully present in the NOW and embrace the spiritual experience.
  • Concentrate — Direct all of your conscious attention on controlling the weight, executing every rep and set in picture-perfect form
  • Control —  Resist the temptation to sacrifice form when things get difficult. YOU control the weight, not the other way around!

Doing this perfectly takes time. And depending on your level of weightlifting experience, expect years of consistent and focused training before you finally “get it”.

Maximally contracting your muscle fibers is akin to learning how to dance: In order to move with grace and precision, you must train your entire body to be neurologically coordinated.

When your mind and muscles are in sync with one another, you understand what “frequent and intense training” actually means.

You’ll be able to recruit a greater percentage of muscle fibers, which forces your body to adapt by building the most amount of muscle genetically possible.

Consequently, you’ll avoid the tragic fate of people who hit the gym for 30-40 years without a plan and end up staying exactly where they are (assuming they don’t injure themselves into immobility)

Take it from someone who has trained for 30+ years with virtually zero injuries and gained more muscle mass with each passing year.

Jay-Campbell-Performing-Lateral-Raises

Summing this principle up in one run-on sentence:

If you don’t know how to maximally contract your muscle fibers by blasting the targeted muscle to complete and total exhaustion via positive muscular failure, you will NEVER BUILD MUSCLE and ultimately change your physique.

Principle #4 – Eliminate Ego And Momentum

Ego and momentum are the two sinister forces that guarantee you will stay skinny and weak forever.

PMF is useless if you aren’t executing each rep with perfect control and technique.

This sounds like a vague surface-level statement, so allow me to be more specific:

  • Controlling the speed at which each rep is performed — this should be down in a slow and intentional manner
  • Avoiding the use of momentum to dictate how intensely you contract your muscles (if you jerk your hips while doing curls, this is you)
  • Using the FULL range of motion on each and every rep
  • Knowing to adjust your technique if you are experiencing joint pain (don’t be the tough guy who pushes through… I promise you won’t succeed)

Strict lifting technique, as described above, boils down to one simple concept: Time Under Tension (TUT).

TUT can be defined as the amount of time under which your muscle fibers are maximally contracting.

A very simple math equation: More TUT = more work performed = better adaptation to intense training = more muscle.

Does this mean you have to lower the weights and use something lighter to perform exercises with the right technique and speed?

You bet!

Does it mean you’ll have to check your ego and not measure up to the muscle-head right beside you?

Absolutely!

Will you have to spend an extra 5-10 minutes in the gym as a result? Most likely.

But what’s happening around you should be COMPLETELY pointless.

If you allow your monkey brain to dictate the flow of your muscular contractions, your physique will be a mere shadow of what it could have been.

This is YOUR body and you only have one in this lifetime — why not do everything you can to transform it and unleash its maximum power?

In summation:

Maximal muscle fiber contraction via perfectly controlled reps executed with perfect technique is the secret to building a physique worthy of showing off.

Principle #5 – Higher Reps, Less Sets

I’m about to blow your mind with this next principle, so I’ll just skip ahead and spoil the takeaway:

If you learn how to consistently train via PMF, use perfect technique consistently, and maximally recruit your muscle fibers, you can train the targeted muscle for two sets to complete and total exhaustion.

PMF-style training involves two high-rep working sets (sometimes 1-3 warm-up sets, as aging trainees normally require more preparation prior to heavy lifting).

The first working set will have you going to positive muscular failure in a rep range of 20-25 repetitions.

The second working set will have you aiming for positive muscular failure within a rep range of 12-18 repetitions.

If you successfully attain positive muscular failure, you SHOULD NOT be able to hit 20 reps on the second working set due to fatigue.

Now you may be wondering: Why the lack of low-rep sets for targeting strength gains?

Training to PMF is done with the intention of delivering maximum hypertrophy in minimum time provided all other factors are also in place (diet, sleep, hormonal health, etc.).

This is primarily due to the taxing of all 3 energy systems:

  • Anaerobic Alactic (ATP-CP) Energy System (High Intensity – Short Duration/Bursts)
  • Anaerobic Lactic (Glycolytic) Energy System (High to Medium Intensity – Uptempo)
  • Aerobic Energy System (Low Intensity – Long Duration – Endurance)

Much more about the energy systems is found in the program itself.

The higher rep ranges allow the trainee to protect their joints, tendons, and soft tissues from the harsh pounding brought on by heavier weights at lower rep ranges.

So if you want to do a powerlifting program and increase your 1-rep deadlift max, PMF is not for you.

Principle #6 – Short Rest Periods

This one is brief — pun intended — and you’ll quickly see why:

Rest intervals between working sets should ideally be 60 seconds, but no longer than 90 seconds.

PMF relies on muscle exhaustion and therefore requires short rest periods.

This is the opposite of strength-focused programs that prescribe longer rest periods between working sets (~2-3 minutes) to maximize recovery.

Again, our goal is not absolute strength… our goal is MAXIMIZED MUSCLE HYPERTROPHY!

A FREE Program For Massive, Muscular Arms Using Positive Muscular Failure

Jay-Campbell-Biceps-Curl

I’ve spent an awful lot of time talking about theory. Let’s put PMF into action!

Years ago I wrote a sample program for people who want to have melon-sized grapefruits for biceps.

On top of the six PMF tenets I just describe, it also comes with some rules specific to training arms:

  • Bicep exercises should involve a rotation between all grip positions (pronated, neutral, supinated)
  • Maximal triceps development involves training the long head (extension work, overhead presses, etc.)
  • Arms MUST be trained directly as heavy compound movements do not target them adequately
  • Arm training is “functional” despite what strength coaches believe
  • It is doubly important that maximal blood flow/volume is achieved for arm training (i.e. you really want to feel the PUMP when focusing on arms).

Now for the meat and potatoes of the program…

Superset #1 

  • Exercise #1: Pronated Dumbbell Curls for 2 sets of 20-25 reps
    • Keep the weight light and do these with a slow tempo — blood flow is the goal!
  • Exercise #2: Keeling Tricep Rope Push Downs for 2 total sets of 15, 12, and 10 reps
    • The kneeling position eliminates body momentum and isolates the triceps

Superset #2

  • Exercise #1: Incline Dumbbell Hammer Curls for 2 sets of 15-20 reps
    • Set the incline bench to ~60 degrees. This stretches out the bicep and creates an intense contraction
    • Curl ALL THE WAY to your shoulder, and all the way back down. Maintain tension throughout the set
  • Exercise #2: Lying Barbell Skullcrushers for 2 sets of 15-20 reps
    • Ensure your elbows are pointed straight toward the ceiling
    • Lower the bar to the forehead or behind the head
    • GO LIGHT — having an ego and doing this heavy will destroy your elbows

Superset #3

  • Exercise #1: Standing EZ-Bar Drag Curls  for 2 sets of 15-20 reps
    • Curl ALL THE WAY up underneath the chin, and then slowly return the weight to the resting position.
    • Make sure you keep the bar close to the body
  • Exercise #2: Seated Dumbbell French Press for 2 total sets of 15-20 reps
    • Make sure the lats are fully stretched out at the bottom portion of the movement
    • Lift about 90% of the way to your arms fully locking out, and then go back down again

NOTE: Supersets for this program mean you do 1 set of Exercise #1, immediately followed by 1 set of Exercise #2, followed by your 60-90 second rest period. That’s one superset. You repeat this two times for a total of 2 times, and then you move on to the next superset of exercises. 

This program does not 100% adhere to the principles of PMF, but you can clearly see how it doesn’t stray too far away.l

Train hard, and enjoy fitting on some new shirts!

More Examples Of Positive Muscular Failure In Action

I mean it when I say PMF is integral to my training.

A while back, I recorded a video explaining how to consistently reach the state of positive muscular failure no matter what training program you follow:

My extreme fat loss program Guaranteed Shredded involves 3 full-body workouts per week where each muscle group is targeted at least once per workout (chest, back, traps, shoulders, triceps, biceps, legs, abs).

And my lifestyle fasting program Metabolic Blowtorch Diet involves either a 3x/week body part split for max fat loss or a 4x/week body part split for maximum muscle preservation.

However, none of this answers what PMF actually looks like in real-time!

I have numerous video examples of what you should expect if you’re doing the movements properly:

Take a close look at the full muscle contraction, the lack of momentum, and the focus on the slow eccentric and concentric movement.

An Exclusive Preview Of Jay Campbell’s “Positive Muscle Failure Video Training Program”

PMF-Training-Monica-Face-Pull

Before I talk about the Positive Muscle Failure Training Program, I want to add one final disclaimer.

My readers will note that I have spoken out against watching training videos online to learn how to lift properly. 

Everything I know has been the direct result of one-on-one mentorship under bodybuilding masters who understand muscle contraction better than anybody else.

People who can instantly correct my form when I’m doing movements wrong… adapt my technique to my body type… show me the right lifting tempo… call me out when my muscles aren’t contracting properly… and the other thousands of “meaningless” details that make all the difference in the world.

This is how you dramatically accelerate the learning curve and get results far sooner than if you were to figure things out all by yourself.

I still stand by this statement.

However, the overwhelming majority of lifters are visual learners and learn best when they can SEE proper technique with their own eyes.

And short of me personally visiting people to train them privately (which will cost you a lot), I have much bigger goals in mind.

Instead of helping thousands of people, I want to impact MILLIONS around the world.

So after condensing down 30+ years of optimization and experimenting on my own self…

Compiling the research I’ve gained from training private clients in the past…

And synthesizing thousands of books about the art and science of weightlifting…

I have successfully condensed the PMF methodology into a crystal-clear video course designed for lifters of all levels. 

Here’s just a small sample of what you’ll receive in this comprehensive package:

  • The unknown yet stupidly obvious secrets that allow my wife Monica (age 50) and me (age 51) to look like photoshoot-ready models year-round without starvation diets or low energy levels

  • How to keep your joints pain-free and fully functional using our “longevity” exercise techniques… we have an entire video library that shows you exactly how to perform each exercise. Visual tips are provided with each exercise to alert you to what you MUST focus on, but most importantly, what you MUST avoid for perfect form and injury prevention.

  • The “right” type of cardio for exclusively losing fat without wasting away hard-earned muscle… and without feeling bored out of your mind. 30-45 minutes will pass by in an instant, your hips and knees won’t be damaged, and you won’t be gasping for breath after climbing up a flight of stairs.

 

  • Why your abdominal muscles have to be trained differently from every other body part for maximum definition and strength… Not only do you have to specifically avoid certain ab exercises, but you also have to choose the right ones if you want to take a photo of your abs while being completely relaxed (no more flexing until you’re red in the face to see a disappointing two-pack!)

 

  • A laser-precise, step-by-step workout routine for building strength and muscle without hours spent in the gym or post-gym exhaustion that lasts all day long… No detail is left behind. The order to do each exercise in, the exact number of reps and sets per exercise, how long to rest between sets, the optimal cadence, the number of days to train per week, the routines for full body and individual muscle groups, the weekly training schedule — you’ll know immediately what to do and actually follow through without any questions.

 

  • How to design your training program with respect to your age and your fitness goals… Older trainees can’t recover as well as younger trainees, and must therefore produce maximum results within minimum time a bit differently. But don’t worry, it’s just as easy for the elderly as it is for the 20-something sports jock!

 

  • The positive muscle failure “paradox” that leaves people unusually energetic after an intense 30-45 minute workout… trainees are SHOCKED to find that after feeling depleted for 5 minutes post-workout, their brains get a sudden cascade of feel-good endorphins and they feel incredibly uplifted to conquer the rest of their day.

 

  • How to tap into your neurochemistry to recruit a higher percentage of muscle fibers… this same hack allows international cyclists to push through unbearable body pain and bike endless distances towards the finish line. It literally is the defining difference that turns PMF into a “key” for making insane progress in VERY short amounts of time.

Monica-Campbell-Lateral-Raise

So What Exactly Is Inside The PMF Video Training Program?

Unlike most programs that “hide” what you get once you swipe your credit card, I’m going to show you all of the content made available to you:

  • A 3-day full-body PMF video program for trainees who are lacking in time and need something that keeps them asdf… one 8-13 minute video for each day, explaining in complete detail what needs to be done to train your body as a full unit.

 

  • A 3-day body-split PMF video program for bodybuilders who have more time and what to focus on specific muscle groups… one 15-17 minute video is provided for each of the three days (Chest & Back, Delts & Tris, Legs & Biceps).

 

  • Jay’s deeper insights into PMF training and the philosophy that drives it… this 28-minute video expands on the six tenets covered in this article and reveals several advanced hacks for improving your results in the gym 10-fold.

 

  • Jay’s insights on cardiovascular training and how to combine it with weight training so they do not negatively impact one another… 8 minutes of nothing but hard-hitting intel — the best cardio machine to use, how long to use it, the optimal heart rate for faster fat loss, the resistance settings to use, what to change depending on your body fat levels, and much more!

Jay-Campbell-Tricep-Pushdo

  • A 39-page PDF manual that acts as your go-to manual for when there’s not enough time in the day to re-watch the videos … you’ll get exclusive content that includes 5-8 exercise substitutions for each body part when your gym doesn’t have the equipment you need, alternative workout-at-home programs, specific images of each exercise being performed cardio machine to use, the 3 energy systems to target for stimulating maximal muscle growth, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Bonus Bundles For The PMF Video Training Program

Everything described above is what you get with the “Basic” Version” of the PMF Video Training Program.

But just for you, I’ve created some money-saving bundles to help people who are at different levels of their fitness journey…

Fat Loss Version

  • Includes everything in the Basic Version
  • Comes with The Metabolic Blowtorch Diet at $30 (retail value of $45)
  • Perfect for people getting shredded in time for an event or a summer vacation

Optimized Version

  • Includes everything in the Basic Version
  • Comes with Living A Fully Optimized Life at $35 (retail value of $50)
  • Ideal for intermediate-level athletes

FULLY Optimized Version

You get to save up to $30 when you get any of these “versions” of the PMF program!

The Search For The Perfect Muscle-Building Program Is OVER!

Jay-Monica-Campbell-PMF-Training

Whether you are a total newbie just getting started in the gym for the very first time…

Or an advanced lifter who’s tired of wasted years down the drain and wants to build a world-class physique free of fat yet full of lean muscle…

Or an aging 50+ year old trainee who wants to gain more functional strength…

The PMF Video Training Program contains something for everybody and will teach you things about lifting weights you didn’t think were possible.

No more looking around, second-guessing, intimidation, or hesitating.

No more watching thousands of hours of YouTube videos to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

And no more excuses.

Just Monica and I holding your hand, guiding you through the exact protocols we use year after year to maintain our amazing physiques.

Each time you show up at the gym, you will have a step-by-step action plan to begin transforming your body.

I AM supremely confident this program is going to dramatically change your life as it has mine.

You only have one body and one vessel in this current lifetime.

Why not honor it and tap into the fullest capacity possible?

CLICK HERE to sign up for the PMF Video Training Program.

As always…

Raise Your Vibration To Optimize Your Love Creation!

PS – If you want to get your questions and answers about PMF training personally answered by me, join The Fully Optimized Health Private Membership Group.

IT IS your greatest opportunity to fully optimize your health, gain total access to myself and other industry experts, and network with high-level men and women massively leveling up their own lives.

Expect nothing less than ongoing hyper-personalized feedback on your current workout protocol… this group is a literal steal.

CLICK HERE to join at Half Price for your first month!

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