Training to failure

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In weight training, training to failure is repeating an exercise (such as the bench press) to the point of momentary muscular failure, i.e. the point where the neuromuscular system can no longer produce adequate force to overcome a specific workload.[1]

The Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment states that training to failure is necessary for maximal hypertrophic response.[2]

Heavy or light weights?[edit]

A 2010 study concluded that training to failure with lower loads with more repetitions can be more beneficial for muscle building than using higher loads with fewer repetitions. In this study, participants who trained to failure with a weight equal to 30% of their single repetition maximum ("1RM") had higher levels of muscle-building proteins 24 hours after their training session than participants who trained to failure with a weight that was 90% of their maximum.[3][non-primary source needed]

Going beyond initial failure[edit]

When the athlete has reached initial failure (i.e. fails to perform a further repetition), the exercise can be continued by making the exercise easier (change of posture, switching to lower weight) or by recruiting help (from a spotting partner or by involving another bodypart).

Repetition Max (RM)[edit]

Working out your Repetition Max (such as your 1RM) must be done to true failure, so this also can be considered a form of training to failure. Though 1RM is the most popular and commonly used, any number of reps can be used, for instance a 10RM or 15RM, in fact your 10RM weight will be much more useful for you in terms of training for hypertrophy than your 1RM[citation needed]. Some say it can be performed with a much lower risk of joint injury (due to the lower weight)[citation needed], while others say a 1RM is safer because failure occurs due to absolute inability of your muscles to perform at the attempted weight rather than due to fatigue.[4] Your 10RM would be the weight at which you can do 10 repetitions, but fail to fully perform the 11th rep - whether that be from loss of form or just natural inability.


  1. ^ Len Kravitz. "Training to Failure". University of New Mexico. Retrieved 2017-09-03. 
  2. ^ Page 124 in: Ian Maitin (2015). Current Diagnosis and Treatment Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. McGraw Hill Professional. ISBN 9780071793308. 
  3. ^ Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise in Young Men
  4. ^ Rippetoe, Mark; Kilgore, Lon (2006). Practical Programming for Strength Training. The Aasgard Company. ISBN 978-0-9768054-1-0.