T Nation

Training to Failure?

Wassup. I’m a relatively small guy (about 5’7
" and 150 lbs), I started training about a year ago and I’d say I have a bit of a hard time putting on mass. I think my diet is pretty good, I eat about 180 g protein in 2000 cals per day…so I’m wondering about training. I usually train with very high tension and aim for failure (and beyond) in every set. Lately I’ve heard it suggested that hard-gainers should avoid failure due to the catabolism this induces. Would I notice more rapid hypertrophy if I started easing back away from extreme intensity and quiting each set a rep ar two before failure? Any thoughts of oppinions?

Terminate your sets a rep before failure. In other words, never attempt a rep that you won’t complete in less than perfect form. Attempting to lift a resistance and then having to set the weight back down without completing the rep does nothing for your training, but it sure does tax the CNS.

I also recommend that you read the Massive Eating articles by John Berardi here at T-mag. Your protein intake is sufficient, but your overall caloric intake is not...you need more than just protein to add mass.


There is a time in each properly planned periodization cycle for training to failure. Training to failure all the time is certainly not optimal. Read “The Ian King Cheat Series” on this site to get more info on this. On a side note, I think that you would “notice more rapid hypertrophy” if you started eating more than 2000 calories per day. Do the Massive Eating calorie calculations and you’ll realize how many more calories you need to take in to grow.

Don’t pay any attention to all these hardgainer myths. I wouldn’t recommend anyone train to failure and beyond every single workout, that’s just not good advice for hardgainers but for everyone. I suspect the problem you’re having is you’re not eating enough food. At 150 lbs 2000 calories would not even be maintenance level for most people that weight who are sedentary. Bump your calorie intake up by 500 for a week and see if you gain some weight.

I have gained 4 kilos in the past 5 weeks and haven’t trained to failure for longer than that. I don’t think is in any way required for hiperthrophy purposes and i’m starting to believe that (at least in my case) it’s even counter productive. I just feel a lot better when i avoid it and have a lot more strenght.

Thanks for the advice so far dudes, I think I’m gonna try a few weeks of sub-failure training and add 500 cal of carbs daily and see if it helps. By the way that was supposed to be 5’-7" not 57". Cheers…

Dont just add carbs. add all the macros.

This is something that I find hard to comprehend. How can the muscle grow bigger and stronger if you don’t push it to failure? I don’t mean this sarcastically in anyway.

Holy Sh!t. I just checked out John Marianni’s (sp?) massive eating guide and according to the calculation I should be eating around 3600 cals per day!? This seems like an insane amount of food to me, can this be right? I guess my lack of gains isn’t only because of ‘to-failure’ training…

oops, wrong guy, I mean John Berardi

If you are stoping one rep before failure and your poundages keep going up then you will get bigger and stronger. You are still pushing your muscle and providing it with enough stimulation to grow. Hope that helps. Maybe somebody can explain it better.

Failure is attempting to do something that you can not…full stimulation occurs before this point…that is why I recommend to go until the point in which you will not be able to complete the next rep; but do not attempt this rep.

I think training to failure (or very near it) is always best for muscle growth. To avoid catabolism, just make sure you keep your workouts an hour or less (an hour or less of solid lifting - this doesn’t include the time you spend showering, etc). Other than that, it seems to me that if you are indeed a hardgainer and have a high “hardgainer metabolism” you need to go on a bulk and eat A LOT more than 2000 calories a day to build muscles.

It is an eye opener isn’t it burnsy? I cannot put on any reasonable amount of muscle unless I kick my calories up to or almost at Berardi’s recommendations.

I would venture to say that you are right. You were undereating more than overtraining. Still, I agree on the failure issue and JasonL explained it well why it is a good idea. Eat big, train hard, avoid failure = growth.

The reason why you can’t do that last rep usualy is not because of muscle fatigue bue due to the temporary inability of the central nervous sistem of contracting the muscle fibers. Although it does extend TUT, which is a good thing, it not worth it as in the long run it will hurt your strenght gains due to acumulating CNS fatigue.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ever do it, it just means that doing it all the time is counter productive. And as i said it’s also not necessary.

If you’re gonna read the article and immediately post something about it, please at least get a few letters right in John Berardi’s name. Second, 3600 calories is nothing. You have guys here taking in over 5000 daily and not complaining about it. Just try it and see. You have nothing to lose, right?

Yeah, that John Belushi sure thinks I should eat a lot (kidding!), no I think I’m gonna try this, I might not dive straight into 3600 cals in one shot but I’ll step it up to 2800-3000 with properly balanced macros for a while and if I see things going in the right direction without turning into the michelin tire man, then I’ll take it up further.

On the failure-training tip, I’ve always found that during times when I was training (which has always been max intensity from square one…thanks a lot Bill Phillips!!) I always felt kinda jittery and had a hard time sleeping (all the time)…that’s why I found it hard to keep motivated in training and usually felt the need to take vacations from it altogether…I felt like I was frying my CNS and probably was. Avoiding failure and eating more makes tons of sense the more I think about it…