T Nation

Proper Form to Failure


Hi everyone! Curious about peoples training method when going for failure. Say doing the top set in RPT. How hard do people try before considering it failure? The references I see have people giving up when they figure they wont be able to do the next rep (i.e. they dont even try it). When going for failure, I try to push through the failure rep. I keep pushing for a good 5-10 seconds sometimes seeing if I can overcome it before declaring it failure.

Any thoughts on the best way to do it?
Also, on short heavy sets (4-6 reps), how long do people pause between reps? I see a lot of people coming to a full stop, taking a deep breath, and trying the next one. How long is too long?


I consider failure to be not being able to complete the concentric portion of a lift. As for resting between reps I think that anything more then 1 or 2 seconds it stops being a straight set and becomes rest-pause or a cluster set


This shit really isn't important. Lift a weight as many times as you can safely.

Forced reps have their place.


Thanks for the input! At what point do you give up trying to complete the concentric portion of the lift? I try until I start making backwards progress; sometimes around 10 seconds. I'm wondering if that's too long to keep at it.


You shouldn't be making 'backwards progress'. IMO at this stage the spotter should either help you get a forced rep or you should reck the weight.


If you aren't stimulating the muscle that is intended with the selected exercise, you are cheating and that's a failure.

you can cheat on curls and minor lifts but don't do on the big ones like squat or deadlift so that you save yourself from a possible injury


IMO 10 seconds is an extraordinarily long time to be trying to complete a rep. I probably stop somewhere around 3, but I never actually count.


I know when I can't complete a new rep anymore. I quit before that almost always. Or before form starts to break down or when it does.



But I do think that there is a difference between a heavy set of 6 and a moderate set (say 12).
On a set of 12 you can often get another rep or two out past what you expected. with a heavy set it is often obvious whether or not you can perform another rep.


per Fred Hatfield. I'd go with what he says. Science doesn't support training to failure.


Guess HIT and DC training are duds as training protocols then. Funny I always hear how good they are hmmm ... interesting


Failure is tricky since you have to know how the CNS works. My best progress on bench came when i stayed away from failure for multiple weeks at a time.


Thanks for the quote. For reference, I'll show one study:
Shows people NOT training to failure had better results for strength (and thus your quote's reference to powerlifters and sprinters makes sense), but people training to failure had better results in terms of musculature (hypertrophy). I've noticed hypertrophy programs emphasize failure. There may be benefits to doing it both ways. I am yet to see someone at the gym other than myself give that failure set a serious try. About 20% of the time I am able to squeeze another rep. Seems like most people here rather not though. Since I rather be stronger than bigger, I'll probably make those adjustments.


I tend to go until I know I can't finish another positive, then do an all-out negative by lowering the weight as slow as possible.


Since sprinting was brought up I thought I'd chime in with a little perspective. I was a collegiate track and field athlete and coached for years. I've had a lot of adults that I've consulted who just train way too F'ing hard in their training sessions, and it hurts their development. They have the hardest time grasping how they are going to get better by training less intense.

To that I explain you train less intense so that you can train more. A runner who "trains to failure," can't workout the next day. I tell them that one extra mile today might mean 4 fewer miles tomorrow.

With any kind of training there is going to be a sweet spot where you train hard enough to stimulate improvement, but not so hard that it inhibits your recovery. As posted above, it may be better to do 2 more sets than to do two 5 second negatives after your failed rep. I can't personally say that that will always be the case, or even usually the case. I merely wanted to add that harder is not always better for the reasons I laid out above.


I definitely have that problem. Specially now that I started RPT and am doing sometimes 3 reps on my top set (out of 2 sets for Deadlifts) - it's hard for me to get over the fact that such little training can be beneficial.


No offence, but you sound like one of the million skinny fat guys out there over-analysing the details. You need to focus on general progression. Why talk about intensity techniques if your numbers look something like 150/200/300? Progress/recovery is what matters most.

Find something that you can recover from - I'll give you a clue, your strength goes way up when recovering well :slight_smile: If training only 3-4 days per week makes you recover well, do it. If only do 6-8 sets/bodypart/week works best for you, do it. Whatever you figure, do it over and over while eating for it.

You don't need to be focussing on intensive methods right now (they are for when gains slow down), you will gain from 2-4 'normal' sets/exercise (i.e. as soon as the bar no longer moves smoothly, finish the set...or as soon as you realise you won't get in another rep in good form, finish the set).

Don't forget, intensity is never a constant thing - it increases week after week. It may get to the point where you are grinding the reps that much, form sucks, and you hardly feel it on the target muscle anymore - at which point you simply reduce the load on the bar (say 15% off), focus more on quality/tension and work your way back up again until the process repeats again.


I don't think you can throw a blanket 'failure training works' or 'doesn't work'. A lot of it has to do with getting that growth stimulus (which can be done without actually hitting failure IMO), but not killing your system enough that you hamper your recovery, and thus overall progress. Some people can recover from failure training, and others can't. Yates always said that he found what worked for him. Of course for every HIT or DC advocate, there are others who were unsuccessful.



150/200/300? I wish my numbers were that awesome! :wink: ...Although your characterization of me is somewhat accurate, I was honestly curious about how most people did the failure rep, and if there was a benefit to a struggled rep. Progression IS something I've struggled with through the years. I stall and there's nothing I can do to get over the plateau. I thought forcing reps might help, but sounds like it could be detrimental.


... have you tried actually eating?

back on topic, I force reps when doing burnouts on isolation work as long as I can feel the target muscle working and other muscles don't start getting involved to complete the movement (ie triceps/biceps assisting a cable flye). I believe that the "pump" is essential to drive nutrients into the muscle and stretch the fascia, but only after subjecting the target muscle to enough damage from heavy working sets, and only if the "pump" can be attained without affecting recovery for other muscles later in the week.