T Nation

To Failure / Not To Failure?


I'm 43 years old and am not convinced my body can recover like it could when I was younger. I wanted some input as to how often people around my chronological age believe muscles should be worked to failure. Each set of each exercise every workout (my usual)? The last set of each exercise every workout? Never?


I am also 43, and lifted consistantly from my late teens through my 20's. I was then off and on until about 5 years ago. I was feeling the same about recovery but kept plugging away at it. I felt tired and sore most of the time. I have always been reluctant to try supplements but I thought finally it was wor


I look at going to failure as very powerful medicine. Like any powerful medicine it should only be used occasionally, when needed.

I might hit one movement to failure once per week. Otherwise, I stop one or two reps to complete failure in my sets.

Good luck,



Very infrequently. Much better to do 3x3 than one set of 5 to failure. Better to do 5x5 than 10, 8,6 to failure. You can lift more weight too with 5x5. Squatting and DLing to failure is crazy. The number of mullets i see everyday in every gym, doing the same foolish forced reps after failing, for set after set, and never getting any bigger or stronger is testament to the danger of failure.


Thanks for the advice. I intend to take it starting tomorrow. Old (old) habits die hard. I've got to condition my brain to accept something less than going to failure as "complete".


One factor to add is how often do you train? I split my body in two workouts, training mon-wed-fri, alternating between workouts so I go through the body three times every two weeks. I take my worksets to positive failure, no forced reps or negatives or stuff like that.

I do between 3-6 worksets per muscle group which seems to be enough for me to recover and grow from.

Nice to be 47 and still make gains :wink:


When getting older it's not about training harder, it's about training smarter!


Currently I'm lifting 4 days a week (legs, chest/triceps, back & shoulders/biceps). Fatique has really only been a concern with respect to subsequent movements on leg day (with squats in particular) and back day (with deads).
I'm going to change up to full body workouts in 6 weeks. (I'm hoping I can handle 3 FB workouts per week, of varying intensities.) I'm afraid fatigue is going to be more of a concern then.

In any event, I am going to stop taking every set to failure (with occassional negatives) because I don't have the energy to play with my kids. I'm also afraid my haircut will morph into a mullet.


I totally agree Jack.


Training to failure every exercise is foolish for any age. The posts above are dead on.



For me it depends on the lift. I never go to failure on squats or deads. And still get pretty sore. Bench I go to failure about once a week. And if I start having issues with shoulder or those tendons that attach the pecs I don't go to failure till those issues are gone.

Something like curls I go to failure quite often. But even with them, if I start to have issues I back off for a few weeks.


Basically, the same as everyone else has said.

However, there is something to be said for beating the hell out of some stubborn muscle every now and then as well. Make it cry mercy a few times and maybe it will get the point.


hi i'm 48 this yr and here's what my training looks like. i do full body, all compound movements,1 working set to failure. except for dl, i stop with 1 or 2 reps left in me.i don't do neg. but i do lots of rest pause's

i have 2 full body programs,meaning different exercises that i rotate. i also don't have schedualed workout days, i train when i feel i have recouvered,sometimes that could be as long as 4 or 5 days between workouts and i add weight on every training day. if the weight no longer go's up i take bout 60%of my rm and start over again.

works for me. i'm 5:11/215/9 or 10% bf. and still manage to put on a couple lbs a year.

however on a foot note i have resently gone over to supplementing. at 48 i feel i'm entitaled/ and srry bout my sp.


faller - what do you mean "gone over to supplementing"? i.e. taking "natural" supplements like protein powders, creatine, etc. or those "other supplements" like test, deca, etc?!



andropen 275, .5 ml eod.will lower that dose to a maintence lvl eventually. i am one of those guys that is considering never comeing off.

hell at 48 i figure why not.


Well, I'm 40 and have worked out on and off since high school. After a sports injury I really let myself go and I'm slowly rebuilding myself.

This thread has been about the most useful I've ever read. Although we all feel like we "know alot" about working out (I'm a doc and kinda do), but about two years ago I overtrained myself into developing a fine tremor in both hands. I was making crazy gains in spite of overtraining, because I had just restarted. After cutting back, it took about 3 months for the tremor to subside. I don't overtrain now, I go to failure far less and will do so lesser still based on what I've read here.



Best thread I've read in a long time.


I've upped my frequency for each bodypart from 1x a week to 2x every 8 days, stopped training to failure (for the most part) and I've made more gains in the last few years (I'm 42) than I did in the previous 10 (and a number of those years I was gassed)

IMO, age has nothing to do with changing your training protocols(unless you think it does). Consistently training to failure is likely too much stress on both the muscles and CNS for anybody.

Not a popular viewpoint, but I think sensible testosterone use is invaluable for ANY man over 40 just for longevity and quality of life reasons. Either short 2-4 weeks on/4-6 week off cycles using propianate (400-800mg weekly) or longer term low dose cycles (eg-250 mg of Sustanon weekly).


Faller - Thanks for info. Do you think the supplementation has increased your recovery rate? Your workout plan seems pretty sound imo.

Good thread guys but maybe this stuff isnt just for the older ones here?! Seems like to many younger lifters train to failure too often too. Sure, youth and juice can hide a multitude of mistakes but imo nothing halts progress as quickly as CNS fatigue.


i think up to a point recouvery is better with supplemention. however haveing said that from all the research i have done the danger here lies in the fact that overtraining is masked while on.

my training intensity or frequency hasn't changed at all even though there are days i feel i have recouvered sooner, and the temptation to get to the gym before full recouvery is,,, well,, tempting.