T Nation

Train to Momentary Muscular Failure or Not?


I’m curious the general consensus on this one. What are most guys doing on a typical workout day in and day out?
When I first started working out myself and everyone who thought they knew anything took each every set to failure, a lot of times even beyond that. Ironically I used to be baffled looking around the gym at the bigger stronger guys that did not (seem to) work as hard
Later in life I’ve decided to only take my last sets of a given exercise to failure and gauge my progress to see if I need to add any deload days in
Lately there has been ALOT conflicting articles regarding training to failure or not and I figured it’d be interesting to see what everyone else is doing and what your personal thoughts may be
Are guys training to failure every set? only the last set of an exercise? Only near the end of a progressive cycle followed by a deload? what type of program are you on? Full body? Bro spilt? Train each muscle once a week? 4 x’s?
I’m not nearly as advanced as most guys on here (I’ve seen some of your pics, lol) so I appreciate any feedback
I’ve decided I never gave full body workouts the credit they deserved and will be following one of Chad Waterbury’s full body programs for a few months.
FWIW - my nutrition has not been optimal. To combat this I’ve started recording everything I eat and now actually realize that I have not been giving myself enough quality calories to grow sufficiently. I’m surprised I’ve been able to grow at all to be honest
Anyways, let’s not turn this in to a nutrition thread if possible. I realize it is possible I may not still be getting enough to grow but know I will be recording and making notes if change is needed. Besides, I’m not lying when I say I don’t think I could force feed myself more if I needed more. I’d rather build up to that over time if needed
Anyways. All thoughts are welcome. I hope to hear from some of the good sources I’ve used over the last few years as I’ve been on here leaking in the shadows


If you are following Waterbury and doing exhaust set every set, you are doing it wrong. He explains his thoughts on it quite well in his book.

The above has been around for way longer then you think. Nothing new.

I never train to failure on regular programs, but live the occasional drop set or pyramid or up and down the rack, etc for variety and vanity.


I was hoping you’d shoot me your opinion

I don’t plan on going to failure on any of Waterbury’s programs set after set. I suspect I will work up to a finishing rep done to failure occasionally but not every single workout.

I’m more curious in general about the way I’ve been working out of the years

It’s actually Chad Waterburys writings that are leading me to believe training to failure each and every set over the years may have held me back. I’ll never know for sure 100% because my nutrition hasn’t always support the best recovery. Now that my nutrition is slowly getting better I will prob bounce around between a few different programs to see what works best for me

One thing I find extremely interesting is how some of these strength coaches point out that by leaving a few reps in the hole you are actually able to get more reps with a given weight after a few sets. I mean, anyone who works out knows this is obvious but more is being said that this is more beneficial; Obviously there is some sort of happy medium between too much and too little

I’m surprised by the lack of feedback on here.

I’m sure I’d get more replies if I were to post something stupid like needing to get my puny calves, biceps and neck the same size

That’s unfortunate. Such good resources wasted on trolls contesting a great forum.

Oh well. You’ve been more than helpful. I appreciate your feedback so far. Hopefully I’ll be posting some new progress threads over the next few months


Its just slow in here at the moment…

i personally tend not go to failure on my big lifts trying too leave one in the tank myself.

Gotten kinda bad here reticently


I rarely lift to failure. I will work up to a triple for a weight PR, and have gone for a 1RM just to see if I could hit a goal or milestone (like three times in the last two years), but almost always keep at least one rep (usually 2-3) in the tank. Like you suggested, it is before a scheduled deload.

I coach teenagers, male and female. I notice a lot of max testing from the boys from other sports at our school. I think it a deep rooted psychological knucklehead issue. Even the boys in my program ask me about it early on. Then they see the girls using perfect form, using manageable weight, and crushing PRs without testing them and tend to fall in line. We have girls that want to out lift boys and boys that buy in right way, so I am admittedly generalizing.

It seems to just be based on competition and some need to prove themselves. Or maybe they just like it and/or think that’s how they should lift.


Because aesthetics are kind of secondary in importance to me I look at training to failure a bit differently: I want to stay as far away as I can from failure in a lift being something I’m accustomed to experiencing. However, what I do value very highly on my big lifts is the ability to know when I have no reps left, one rep left and two reps left. That lets me work hard while not risking sudden failure as much.

On smaller lifts I don’t generally go to failure out of preference, but I’ll go very close and eke out reps doing rest/pause.


Not. -Slows down strength/performance gains which is my priority.

Also my personal belief makes you much more injury prone in the long run


I usually train to technical failure on higher rep sets on compound movements.

Only time I train to muscular failure is arms or on laterals.


I’m always super careful how I go about asking questions because I’ve seen some pretty stupid questions. That AND I’m the guys who have been here longer may have debated a topic which may be new to me to death already

I appreciate your reply


For me that’s just how I was taught you were supposed to train if you wanted to make any progress

It’s enlightening to see everyone coming forward and seeing that training to failure too much is an issue

I appreciate your reply


I could use more gains and look forward to hopefully seeing some over the next few months

I appreciate your reply


I wondered that too. I assume training smaller muscle groups to failure is not that taxing on the CNS (assuming not too many sets are performed this way)

Thank you


Training little mini moves (assistance) work like curls I find fine and don’t see a downside to and haven’t noticed a downside from doing so. Going to failure on Deadlifts I find messes up the whole week of training.