T Nation

Failure and Number of Reps


does it make sense to go to failure on every set one does or do the pre planned number of repetitions work??


I like my last 2 sets to be failure.

But usually I do 1-2 warmup sets. then 1 set were I push it get pretty dam close to failure if not at it. Then last 2 I go to failure. Then Drop set it.


Lift PAST failure, not TO failure


I mix it up.

E.g. 6-8 weeks I'll do pre planned rep and set schemes and another 2 weeks I'll go to failure on every set but for only say 2sets.



If you go to true failure on your first working set you just screwed up the rest of the sets for that exercise and maybe others. I don't know about everybody else, but I only got to complete failure on the very last set which sometimes turns into a drop set or a rest pause to make sure I can't eek out another rep.


It also depends on the exercise. Purposefully going to failure on squats or deadlifts will probably turn the last few reps into an ugly grindfest - that's an injury waiting to happen. Curls, however, can easily be done to failure.

There are a number of pros and cons about training to failure. Most coaches I believe in - Defranco, Ferruggia, Waterbury - are against it.


What worked for you in the past?

I'm starting to wonder more and more, how much training experience did you have before you competed? Not trying to harass you, but you've been asking some super-beginner questions when you've already gotten into good shape once before. I know it was a bunch of years ago and you're kinda starting over, but I'm wondering what's up?

Anyhow, I kinda see training up to or beyond muscular failure as a training technique that can be used at times, but isn't necessary on every set of every workout. Avoiding muscular failure encourages fast bar speed (which can build strength) and can reduce recovery time by creating slightly less trauma, which adds up for results in the long run.


i am a super beginner compared to you guys; no shame in admitting. and what's the point of joining a bodybuilding forum and not ask questions; there aren't many good trainers in my area , those who are they hook you up with juice asap
and i'm not harassed; my training experience is 9 yrs, with a 2 yr break post stroke in between


Cool, gotcha. But for perspective, even considering your stroke and the comeback you're dealing with, 9 years of training including actually doing a show, is a good bit more experience than some guys around here. You must've learned some stuff along the way. Either way, for sure ask questions. Trading info is what we're all here for.


Also consider "greasing the groove".

You can think of doing big compounds not just as mass/strength-builders, but also as movements to be practiced. If you go to failure on every set, you will be doing a lot of ugly grinders. Occasionally doing a grinder isn't a bad thing, and it's nice to have a feel for what your ability to grind a rep is.

However, making grinders a significant proportion of the reps you do on your compounds is not a good thing. This is basically the equivalent of practicing with bad form. Practicing with good form means your form improves with time (and is better maintained as you approach your max), so you can lift more weight and/or hit your target muscles more effectively. You will not get these benefits by reinforcing bad motor patterns.

Also, frequent grinders means a higher likelihood of injury, which is a HUGE limiter of progress.


I haven't taken a set to failure in over a year.


It also depends on your goals. If you are training for performance (all of the coaches that you mentioned are primarily performance coaches), then you definitely want to avoid taking the majority of your sets to failure or beyond. If you are training for aesthetics though (bodybuilding, figure, etc...), then many physique coaches advise training to failure on a fairly regular basis.


same here.

Going to failure is not necessary to get huge, and actually counter productive if you want to get hella strong.

Considering your stroke history I would definitely avoid post failure work like forced reps etc