T Nation

Failure: A Good Thing When it Comes to Training?


What do you guys think? Train to failure every workout? Every (working) set? Never? Leave a rep in the tank? 2?

Personally, I'm a big fan of training to failure (for all my working sets) despite what Feruggia and Wendler say about it.



There is only one truth to this question

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Here it comes...

It depends.


Are we talking complete can't move failure so you're stuck at the bottom position? Or end of good form? Or when you think you won't get the weight up if you for it?

It depends, isolation stuff if nearly always to failure for me, compound stuff it depends sometimes yes, sometimes not.

Right now I'm back on DC so all the time I'm hitting failure.


I train to failure on Calves, biceps, triceps, cable cross, and some delt exercises, so I guess I do mainly the isolation exercises to failure often, may do more but usually dont have a workout partner. I like training to failure though.


All of them at some point or another.


                                                                                                                                                                              I don't think one should go to the point of being stuck at the bottom for every set, but also one should not short himself by giving up "when you think you won't get the weight up if you [go] for it." Weight training is 80% mental and 20% physical, so the fact that you "think" you are at your very last rep is probably in 99% of cases not true.

All that said I feel that training to complete failure is great for bursting through those periods of stagnation in order to tear down your muscles. But on average one should shoot for the last rep with good form, but not 2-3 more reps with good form. Push yourself.



I did find where I trained to failure more often than I do now, I would suffer from CNS fatigue regularly.

It isn't something to be avoided, but if you are feeling constantly fatigued while you are getting enough sleep, eating properly, etc. you should probably back off it some what.


When I used to train to failure every set on just about every exercise, I would get sick all the time and I didnt make very fast progress. Having said that I have changed a lot of things over the years.

Personally I only go to failure (unable to get another rep) on the last set, and even then I will stop the set if I feel my for deminishes too much. On some exercises (after my main exercise) I will push more sets to fatigue.


Yeah it depends. On a lot of things.

But if I had to generalize, I'd say training to failure is way smarter to do when isolating.

it's good for improving the mind muscle connection, if done properly, at least.
there's way less CNS fatigue. Complex multijoint exercises like squats or heavy chins can leave you EMPTY for hours. Not so with curls.
Less risk. It's amazing to me that nonpro, barely motivated, weekend warrior athletes brag here about passing out on squats. Heavy lifts can crush you if you fail to lift them up! A dumbbell can always be dropped.
Finally, you cannot establish bad motor patterns with going to failure while isolating. A good squat has a huge athletic potential carryover to lots of activities. A bad, tired squat can fuck up your posture instead of improving it if you insist on grinding out a few extra reps.


I never train to complete failure on every set of every exercise.