For Anyone Not Yet Convinced on Failure Training

Skip to 4:20 for hypertrophy.

Cliff notes:

  • Compounds RIR 1-2, possibly only to failure on last set of exercise.
  • Isolations RIR 0, but with training specificity applied.

*Also points to research that says estimated RIR are consistently underestimated. To such a degree that if you believe you’ve got 1 rep in the tank, you probably have 5 left.


I believe him Yo.

I don’t know why, but I do.


I have to imagine how strong one is, or how strong they are for their frame comes into play here.

I see a lot of beginners (by that I mean that the weight isn’t all that impressive) that that will do a fairly hard rep then proceed to do one more that is just a grinder on stuff like squats and deadlifts. They will do multiple sets like this. I see a lot fewer really strong people do this.

I think doing it when stronger has a trade off that stronger individuals recognize. That is that the rest of their training session is impacted a lot by doing multiple sets with only 1-2 RIR.

Maybe that trade off is worth it if you can drive growth on a big compound movement though?

I’ve been playing around with matched myo rep sets on isolation exercises. I really like it. I’ll do the first set to 2 RIR, then the following sets, I’ll match that rep number, even if I have to pause for 5-10 seconds for rest a few times to get there. I like these because it can give me the opportunity to approach failure sometimes like 6-8 times with 3 sets.


I dozed off a lot in this video, which is not my norm with Layne, but I felt like his first couple reviews aligned closely with what @mnben87 is saying: there was little consequence in proximity to failure once volume-load is matched. That would necessarily need to be more closely monitored at higher strength levels than lower.

I’d have to actually pay attention to the lecture to defend my statement there.


Disclaimer: I didn’t watch the video. Is he for, against it, or somewhere in between?

Probably requires some nuance to decide how close one would come to failure for an exercise. How developed is the person, is the goal size or strength, which exercises are we talking about…

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Did anyone watch the video or are y’all just bullshitting here?


I saw the video before you posted it. Layne shows up in my youtube recommendations a lot, and I really like the way he breaks down studies in a way where he steps away from the headline to form a balanced realistic view on what it actually means.

Studies on training methodologies I find pretty worthless though - nothing is going to come out now to tell us anything we don’t already probably know, and this is the same. Intensity goes up, volume must go down. To go with what @mnben87 says though, top coaches will usually be okay with newbies pushing for maximum safe reps across all sets if it doesn’t sacrifice form. The weights aren’t heavy enough to cause recovery issues yet. Training to failure or maximum reps across all sets when you’re decently strong has to be managed better (or simply can not be done in terms of the latter). As Layne says (which we already knew), less demanding exercises will allow you to push closer to failure more often because it causes less overall fatigue load.

All these binary “this proves that” studies are worthless because they ignore the context of the program as a whole, a person’s training history, their training age, actual age, and a dozen other things. Proximity to failure is vital to hypertrophy, how you go about getting to that proximity is dependent on the routine as a whole. The answers to these questions are always “It depends” so I find it all moot, to be honest.

For someone who’s never trained to failure before it could be the fastest gains they’ve ever made, until it’s not, because now volume is. The nuance is never accounted for, so I ignore them.


I watched the video and saw other reports on this meta analysis when it came out. I didn’t find anything too terribly surprising about this. It explains why programs like Sheiko (for example) work quite well for strength despite the fact that failure is quite a ways away. Regarding hypertrophy, my memory of the study findings was that with heavier loads (in excess of 80%) the proximity to failure mattered much less. I haven’t gone back to look at the study to confirm my memory is right, but this makes some intuitive sense to me. Even if my memory is wrong, the risk of taking a compound barbell movement at, for example, 90% to true failure or even to an RPE of 8 or 9 just isn’t worth it in my opinion for hypertrophy training. And I say this as someone who has missed many, many lifts on compound movements over the course of my training career.

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I agree with what @mnben87 kind of touched also.
Its true that we need to be close to failure, but we have to take into account the overall size and strength of the person.
The more person has trained, the better he is at exploding in a rep. Thats why Dynamic Effort works even tho its done with fairly low percentages. Because its done by a strong individual, with high velocity, which turns on the muscle fibers even tho its nowhere near the failure.
It is also known, that when a person maxes 300lbs deadlifts he does an amount of damage to his muscles and therefore CNS. But when the person who has gained more muscle, maxes a 600lbs, the overall micro tears in now larger muscles, make a lot more damaged surface therefore the CNS damage is multiplied also.

My opinion is that the bigger the muscle, the more explosive it can move, the less sets it should do to or very close to failure, because the overall damage done is much bigger, just because of the fact that the damaged surface is larger.
There is a reason why training to failure almost never exist with very big and strong individuals who train with compound lifts.

Now bicep curls is smth different, you can failure them every day, i dont think any harm can be done.


This isn’t a study, it’s a meta analysis/regression.

Otherwise, I agree. We already knew this, but folks (mike israetel, for example) still preach leaving reps in the tank.

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I know Mikes ideas and i know what Layne represented, but how do we know that Layne is correct? Mike is very smart and also has some muscle. So which one is the idiot?

That was my takeaway as well

I thought I saw something Mike posted recently in response to this meta analysis where he said he was changing his view. I’ll see if I can find it.

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Mike’s training is based on mathematical estimations of a best fit balance of volume and failure training. His theories make sense by number, but he does not take people into account. People have repeatedly shown themselves to be incabable of estimating RIR. If you watched the video, Layne points this out as well.

RP Coaches say to train with RIR yet they train their clients to failure. I wonder why that is :thinking:


Sure. We could have 100 more studies though and still only get to “It depends”.

This meta analysis actually says it matters more. It’s more or less linear benefit but increases in benefit within the last 1-2 reps to failure.

But you also have to take into account that Mikes programs slowly add volume, and slowly go closer to lower RIR. Wouldnt that make sense then? He adds sets and lowers RIR as the program goes further.
I think thats where the problem comes from - some studies talk about just 1 set, or just 1 type of progression and compare it to different method but within this program.

For example… 3 sets of 10, all taken close to failure would be better than 3 sets of 8 @ 2RIR. Yes… But… what if we add 1 set each week till we have 10 sets? I think doing 10 sets to failure will not be realistic and will lead to worse results… Now 10 sets with 2 RIR makes more sense and the volume increase would be a significant driver of hypertrophy and progression.

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And when you have repeated studies, meta analyses and regressions that all point towards failure training being the most beneficial?

It still depends…?

I think a much better approach would be to stop adding sets and just add weight.

Periodization has been shown to be beneficial, which can still be utilized within the context of Failure Training.

I don’t think 10 sets of anything (failure or not) is getting you more benefit than 1-3 sets to failure. Unless we’re talking about strength training, then it’s a different story.

Well thats where i am not sure, as the total volume is one of the primary drivers. And you cant always add weight. I probably could go months without being able to add weight to some exercises, but you can always add sets. Adding sets is a legit way to progress.

Lee Priest for example, is known for very high volume and nowhere near failure.

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