T Nation

Stimulus to Fatigue Ratio w/ Mike Israetel & Paul Carter

Excellent discussion with these two.

Paul Carter meets his match on this question, but comes back strongly too with some good points.

Go to exactly 42:00 to the real point.

Key point from Mike is, stimulus is linear with reps up to failure, but fatigue is exponential as you approach and pass failure.

The whole podcast is really worthwhile.


126 views but no replies…cmon’ don’t be shy…

I think this idea that stimulus is linear with reps up to failure, but fatigue is exponential as you approach and pass failure is a big deal.

Paul Carter’s response is that you have to go to failure because most people don’t know where their failure point is. But the logical outcome of that is that you should only go to failure once in a while, to test yourself and determine what one or two reps in reserve actually is for you at your current stage of development.

I sense that too bulldog, and I remember why, but I think this question of whether to go to failure is one of the last open questions, and Mike Israetel is doing the talking here. I think he nails the point as to why we should not go to failure often.

I’ll watch the video… ill say right out . I’m on the side of not going to failure and keeping a rep or two on certain movements

But it also imo depends on the strength and experience level of the indvidual.


I’m always big on having the conversation here that the VAST majority of trainees don’t even know WHERE their failure point is to be able to keep a rep or 2 in the tank. I think this is fantastic advice for an experienced trainee that has actually run into the redline a few times and has awareness of where failure is, but SO many junior dudes stop a set when they really have 2,3, or even 8 extra reps in them if they were to actually push themselves.

It’s what makes the “training to failure” conversation tricky. Heck, I still defined “to failure” to mean you actually FAIL an attempted rep, but whenever I use that definition people look at me like I rode in on a dinosaur.


Yeah… like I added above the debate is variable due to factors you bring up.

For me now that I’m older and beat up my measuring stick is if the form has gone to shit and how much grinding is happening. Which inexperienced or beginners won’t have a handle on.


^this imo



Higher percentage or near max failure (for me) had been a waste of time and effort and connective tissue. In this regard, I agree with Isreatel in the exponential nature of failure. The problem I’ve had with going to failure was that it can occur unexpectedly resulting in injury.

Going to failure to find out where its at every so often? Sure, why not. But weigh the risk/reward. Or use higher volume protocols where the failure isn’t as sudden and possibly violent or catastrophic, like with drop sets or pre exhaustion.

Thats where I think the paradigm of a training max instead of an absolute max really shines. It can act as a buffer from catastrophic failure while functioning in a well designed program to continue keeping you in a range that challenges the muscles.

Thats just my 2 cents.

I think if failure isn’t necessary to induce muscle growth (and it’s not), then are the risks associated with reaching and even going beyond it worth it instead of focusing on other necessary factors and variables that are often under considered by most trainers.



Yeah. All around, there just isn’t much to get from it. You can’t go to failure frequently enough to be effective (effective for what?) without seriously increasing the risk of injury, and if its not effective, then why do it?

Can’t lift if you’re busted up. Thats a net negative of lost time, lost strength or muscle, and very likely loss of function.


And even if going to actual failure doesn’t immediately result in injury, long term the impact on joints is going to be more significant even if reps are in the 6-12 range. If failure is defined as the actual inability to lift the weight, those last several reps before getting there probably aren’t going to be done with the perfect form, even in an experienced lifter.


Completely agree with it being tricky. The average person who has read t-nation and lifted for awhile knows that it means. For some it’s kinda like “overtraining.” Basically an excuse to not work hard because failure is bad. Meanwhile they are defining failure as “ooh I feel my bicep working on rep two better stop.”

Very good point. Big difference between going to or near failure on your second drop set of around 20 or so total reps and trying to go to “failure” with your 90% bench max.

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Yeah. I don’t disagree with either of them. I’d rather feel failure coming from a few reps away and stop.

But the reality is I also lifted with a bunch of maniacs who would egg you on to get another rep or two or three no matter what.

The older you get the more you think about risk. When I was younger it was balls to the walls all the time.

I still think I train pretty hard. Far harder than any of the people at my gym save a few. But I’m not stupid with training anymore. At least not as often…

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I’m quite certain that I don’t. The 10 years ago me would never have imagined any of this.

I’m still finding new ways. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Oh yeah! Like indestructible! I could recover from virtually anything with a steak hoagie and a nap.

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I am not as experienced as most lifters here. But I was always wondering how the heck do you go to failure. If I am squatting some weight that is already heavy, do I squat until the weight crashes me and colapses on top of me? If I OHP do I o until I drop the bar on top of me?

I am sorry, but I do not get the concept of failure?
Sure, I do not train hard enought, but I always felt like shit after a couple of weeks of pushing my limits. To a degree that I just quit going. So how is the concept of failure going to work for me?

Personally in real life, my advice to most is if your form on say a ohp or squat has broken down on a work set you’ve reached technical failure. Beyond that, one proceds at their own risk.


My trick is to start with broken form and just get that out of the way


Yeah I agree with you. With some lifts my technical failures = my muscle failure (like the bench). For others, really not (like the squat).

So I also try to use technical failure as my gauge as much as possible. Longevity > everything else


The failure definition topic is always an interesting one. I think we’ve had it here a few times.

For me, muscular failure is the inability to complete another concentric (and I’m including getting sloppy as an option).

So, for compound movements, I am not going to go near that. I definitely used to when I was younger, to the question above, and that indeed meant the squat bar was going to be on the rack pins and I’d have to crawl out. I stay so far from that it’s fair to say I’ve redefined failure to be “technique breakdown”, as also noted above.

On smaller moves, I’m not afraid of failure; can I really ruin tomorrow with a barbell curl today? I still think there’s a difference with failure between low reps vs. high. Like if I get 2 reps and can’t get a third, I may still have some juice left, just not enough for that weight. The lighter the weight gets, the less muscle it takes per rep, the closer I think I’m getting to real muscular failure. Get to true concentric failure on a set of 3 dumbbell curls and then on a set of 25 and there is a difference!

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