T Nation

Training to Failure


Ok, I'd like to know how everyone either uses this or shuns it and personal experiences.

I'll begin by saying I used to train more frequently and not go to failure (deliberately anyway) and subsequently I experiences less DOMS and other stuff. Typically I trained each body part every 4-5 days.

However I experienced more hypertrophy by training to failure on most sets and leaving 7 days between body parts being repeated.

I understand the last paragraph I wrote does not work for everyone so am interested in comments.


I think failure training is great for hypertrophy, regardless of how zealously some people campaign against it.

I'm not going to be one of these HIT nutjobs who insist that lifting to failure is the only valid way to exercise, but I do believe that it is as good as anything else for hypertrophy.


I think one issue with taking on anecdotal info about what works, is that people tend to change several things and cite just one as being the thing that changed.

For instance, I know a guy who stopped training to failure and started growing but at the same time began to eat more, so its sometimes hard to know whats working and what isn't.


I always train to failure, and I isolate ever muscle, take that training coaches!

Honestly, how can you say you train hard if you aren't pushing yourself to the absolute limits? If your diet is in-line, you should have no problem recovering for a little failure.


I reckon I'm gonna get accused of promoting training to failure.


It's another tool in the toolbox IMO. I rarely train to failure, but every so often it's just fun to see how far I can go. Plus it's a nice little "jolt" if you're doing the complete opposite like a high frequency, staying away from failure type of program.

I would say the key to going to failure is moderation! If you do it day in and day out, for months on end, you'll probably burn out. Too much of something is bad, too little of it can be bad (or have no affect). I guess that's my way of looking at it.




My best mass gains have come from doing high volume training to failure. My best strength gains have come from doing Westside type layouts with ME and DE days with supplemental exercises where I don't train to failure except on the ME lift.

I guess everybody has got to find what works best for them, I'm currently playing with the undulated training method, and I'm trying to pick weights and rep schemes that allow me to go to failure, we'll see how that works out.


Hi guys,

Interesting topic, and one that has much controversey and debate surrounding it.

Personally I rarely train to absolute failure (the inability to execute another rep of the exercise). In fact, I only do so when I am testing myself (be it maxing out, or seeing how many reps I can do of a particular exercise).

I used to train to failure a lot more frequently, but honestly didn't really see any stellar results from doing so.

Lately I have been training more in line with Chad Waterbury's High Frequency paradigm, and have seen great improvements in both strength, and I have also seen improvements in muscle mass (although that is not my primary goal).

I currently am only training every body part 4 times per week. But may increase that to more, not sure yet.

In my experience, training your body parts infrequently (every 4-7 days) isn't as "sure fire" a method for gaining hypertrophy as many in the industry would lead you to believe. Will it produce hypertrophy? Sure. But will it do it better than training more frequently? Not in my experience.

I think the question that you need to ask yourself is; why am I training to failure? Do you really understand the mechanics of doing so, and what are the benefits?

But, hey that's just my opinion.

Good training,



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Hi pushharder,

Agreed. And for some reason everyone just jumped on the bandwagon until it was almost considered blasphemy to suggest that any other training methodology would produce equal or (God forbid) better results.

Of course there are numerous examples that contradict such a mindset, and thus prove that it's certainly not the "only" way to success.

Take the reigning Mr. O for example. I have read several interviews with him in which he claims to "NEVER train to failure". Considering what he's been able to accomplish and may just become the all time winningest Mr. O in history, I'd have to say that's pretty strong evidence against Mentzer's failure dogma.

Good training,



What are DOMS?



Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Thank you Google


After a warm-up set or two I lift until I cant get anymore reps out using good form. The next set I add more weight rep out and I repeat that until I get below 5 reps to failure. It usually takes about 5 sets after the warm up sets. I only work one body part per session and hit it with 3-5 movements. My recovery is very good and rarely get sore anymore. Legs are the part that get the most soreness but its minimal.


I enjoy being sore after a days workout.I always train my ass off hard in the gym because when I'm sore I can sit back,relax,and understand that I worked my ass off and I've got sore body part's to show for it.


It depends on what your goals are. If you dont really care about strength or if strength is a distance second to hypertrophy then maybe... you have a case. I think there is a place in some exercise programs for regular training to failure. But from what I understand consistently doing that really fucks up your nervous system for heavy weights, fast speeds


One thing here is that training to failure can mean different things. I do not train to failure and I honestly do not want to miss reps on large exercises, but I may push my muscles to their short term limit.

Here's some examples:

Let's say I start benching with 225. After 7 reps, lets say it gets hard, After another 2 I might arch my upper back a little more to stay in a position where I can keep going. After 3 more, I might start tucking the shoulders some more for 2 more reps., then I might kick in a little leg drive for the last 3 reps.

I probably have trained at least many of my muscles to momentary muscular failure, but my form has shifted to compensate, so I do not have a killer 30 second last rep or anything.

Or I could push with compensatory acceleration and push as hard and fast as possible for 4-5 reps and then notice that I am not as explosive on rep 6. I have trained to my limit in that any additional reps will be less explosive and therefore less forceful, but I have not drained my CNS of its will to live.


A few years ago I was using Mentzer's methods, 1 set to failure about once per week, I was strong but but my blood pressure was really high. This low frequency stuff is no way to build fitness into the muscles. Now I work each muscle 4 or 5x per week with different parameters and multiple sets for conditioning benefits. I challenge myself on each set but do not train to failure. And my blood pressure is now normal.


I was thinking exactly this. This may be ignorant but: Do we have a std. definition for failure? Is it incapacity to lift 50% of your normal weight for that exercise? Or is your muscle hurting/extreme pump/lack of energy that doesn't let you wash your back?


I always wonder about this:

if I do a workout with say 200lbs..

workout failure (A)

200lbs 4 sets of 10 reps

Workout not to failure (B)

200lbs 4 sets of 9 reps

its almost the same work with no chance of overtraining........if I continually improve my numbers over the long haul..I think it would make sense to do work out B.......dont get me wrong I train to failure more often then not...but im starting to talk myself out of it by using this example...

what do you guys think?