The Truth About Training To Failure

Training to failure has become a topic of hot debate in recent years. For a long time, it was promoted by the bodybuilding community that the “only” or “best” way to maximize muscle growth was to take every set to failure. This invariably conjures images of Dorian Yates screaming bloody murder in his dungeon as he eeked out every last ounce of energy from his muscles.


Recently though, there’s been push back against this belief and that “leaving some in the tank” may not only be as effective for building muscle and strength, but more effective.


So, what’s the truth?


Let’s discuss.

What is Training to Failure?

Training to failure means that you cannot complete another rep with good form and/or you may fail your next rep.


It is NOT doing a “hard” set of 10 reps where you can still perform another two reps.

Pros & Cons of Training to Failure

As with everything in life, training to failure has its pros and cons.


For starters, it can be quite anabolic, meaning it helps build muscle.


Training to failure ensures that you’ve completely exhausted both the fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Utilizing failure training also helps maximize your training efficiency, meaning you need to perform less total sets per workout to accomplish your goal of muscle growth.


However, training to failure is also incredibly demanding and fatiguing, not only to the muscles, but also to the CNS. When your CNS is fatigued, each subsequent set in your workout will be performed at a much lower intensity/capacity.


Training short of failure allows you to accomplish more work during a training session while sparing your CNS.


Failure training also increases the risk of injury or strain since you’re pushing your mind and body to the brink. Saving a rep or two allows you to still induce high amounts of muscular fatigue without incurring as great a risk of injury.

So, What’s Best?

At the end of the day, both failure training and volume training can be used in your training program. Ideally, you’ll incorporate both styles, but you also have to take into account personal preference.


If you’re someone who likes to leave nothing left in the tank and/or short on time, then failure training is the way to go. If you’re a casual gym rat looking to make the best gains possible, save the failure training for the last set of an exercise and/or use it on isolation exercises.


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