Study Supporting Not Training to Failure

It’s a fairly old (2016) article citing this study. But it supports the idea that you should stop short of failure.


I think this is one of those times where science and bodybuilding simply disagree. Science may point to not training to failure, and much progress can be made with those methods.

BUT every huge guy I know (arms >19" and lean) trains to failure.


As far strength gains training to failure, at least for competition, training to failure is not the best route, from what I have seen. One of the last things you want to do, is learn how to miss.

From all the time I watched Charles Bailey powerlift, he never trained to failure. Before he started training for powerlifting he asked me about the rules. I worked out about the same time he did, and watched him progress. In the 275lb class, he accomplished a 1,100lb squat and a 2,500+lb total in meets. Not that I could imagine wanting to “help” spot someone squat 1,000+lb squats.


Chad Waterbury covered this years ago!


Excellent article. Made me think even more about how I do my sets.

yes there are several studies now showing that. Plus, annecdotal, most the big bodybuilders never train to failure, only a few do/did. Many of us every day trainees also found that failure does nothing but prolong recovery, require very low volume and end up reducing gains a lot. IMO, failure is the single worst concept ever created for bodybuilding.


Only 24 men in their early 20’s which means an extremely limited demographic was tested. They even admit in the study most of the results are statistically unreliable. Most of the p values are far in excess of 0.05. The study is worthless. Did you guys actually read the study?

Isn’t that a little rash? How about: “Most of the P-values are far in excess of 0.05. The study is not statistically conclusive.”

logically- if the rep which you fail on causes the most hypertrophy than not doing that rep is shorting yourself of maximum gains. regardless of what any study says, that final rep is the trigger switch for growth. intensity of effort.

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I mentioned only strength gains. My experience in powerlifting competition coupled with what I saw Charles Bailey do, pointed to not training to failure for maximum strength gains.

All my training beliefs are based on my experience. I might try another approach. I never saw any good powerlifter successfully train to failure.

Logically based on your premises. Are your premises accurate or just theories.

IMO, training for maximum muscle is more about “lab work” than it is “class work.” PDCA is how I trained.

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Hey so you’re actually correct about training to failure being best for hypertrophy.

It is not ideal for strength training though.

I posted a thread about this if anyone wants to browse:

We know for a fact though that the last rep isn’t “the trigger” not only from 99% of bodybuilders, powerlifters and oly lifters growing huge muscles without every hitting failure but research trials and muscle physiology also tells us how things work. Hypertrophy is stimulated via tension and time, whether we reach a level of fatigue that exceeds the load on the bar matters not.

This alone casts much doubt to obtaining any valid conclusions. Where did he get those subjects? They were definitely not experienced with lifting weights.

Do any of you believe you lack the self awareness to know the difference between your 1 RIR and 5 RIR on any exercise in the 8 rep range. (This is the rep range that I trained my upper body for decades. There is absolutely no way I didn’t know what I could do 8 reps, such that I would stop at 7 reps [1 RIR] but would have been able to actually get 12 reps.)

I admit that I did not read the article, but that statement I quoted is in La La Land.

But since I am here now, what is your definition of reps to failure?

  • Lifting until you cannot complete the lift with spotters lifting the weight to its completion?
  • Guessing the last rep you can complete?
  • Guessing the last rep you can complete in good form?
  • Lifting until the last rep has broken form to complete?
  • Or lifting until the weight comes back to its resting place?

Back in the old days (1970’s and '80’s) many trained using Weider’s Forced Reps. The Barbell Bench Press seemed to be the favorite Forced Reps exercise. Some would be going to failure and doing 5 more forced reps. Those rarely made much progress at all. The spotter got a pretty good upright row workout. Most all Forced Reppers did at least 2 forced reps. We all gave it a try, but the trial didn’t last too many months, before returning to sanity.


I have squeezed out 2-3 extra reps on top of what I thought was my last rep before and I’ve been training for 16 years.
Just saying.

Until you cannot complete another rep. You tried to, and couldn’t.
*not to be used for things like squats.

Come on man, you expect me to debate your whole response and you didn’t even read the article or watch the video? It’s a meta regression of studies, not some one-off.

I was agreeing with you that training to failure is not ideal for strength.
I do not see an argument that supports leaving reps in the tank RE hypertrophy.

I have never got two more reps than I thought I could. I always knew about what my capability was.

I have seen people get bigger doing more volume, where a few sets are to failure. I have never seen people getting bigger doing high intensity for low volume. I am not saying it doesn’t happen, just that I have never seen it.

Then again, almost everyone I knew who got big took AAS and some HGH plus insulin. Then volume becomes a non-issue.

You can add one to that count, if you wish


I thought about this a little more. I would say you didn’t best your expectation, you made an exceptional PR.


Was it because of going to failure with forced reps…or was it because of not enough recovery or recuperation?

I see failure training as a tool now rather than a “this” vs “that” methodology. Incorporating it in will always cause you faster gains in the short term, but leaving something in the tank on most sets is probably better for most people the rest of the year.

But whatever gets you in the gym is what matters, and on a personal level I adopt the “at least one set for max safe reps” line of thinking. It’s up to the individual to figure how hard they can go and what they can recover from.

How could anyone possibly know how many reps they have left if they never take sets to failure? It becomes very subjective… as this whole training game is, I suppose.