When it comes to training for failure, there will be quite a bit of it depends. With this blog post, I will do my best to cover the nuances, so bear with me.
First, what is training for failure?
There is a couple of ways you can define this. You can either do an exercise till you can no longer lift the weight, or you can perform an exercise till your form breaks.
If you were to train to fail, I highly suggest the second option, the one where your form fails. Why?
If you keep going past the point of form failure, your body is in a compromised position. This can lead to a higher risk of injury and chronic pain.
You don’t want that.
SHORT-TERM GAINS WITH TRAINING TO FAILURE
I want to start by saying that you can get results from training to failure, but it’s short-term. In the first 3-4 weeks, you might see some gains with strength and hypertrophy, but you will quickly plateau.
When this happens, most people will start adding more volume thinking, they need more. This might lead to more gains, but again, it’s short-term. You will hit another plateau, and you will be stuck in this vicious cycle.
The problem is you can’t keep adding volume to your routine. To a certain point, it will become a ridiculous amount of volume that you can’t recover from. Also, no one has that much time to spend in the gym. Short-term gains don’t mean long-term results.
They’re also the negative side effects of adding a ton of volume and training to failure.
CONS OF TRAINING TO FAILURE
One of the most underrated parts of training is recovery. Without proper recovery, your body cannot adapt to the training stimulus. No adaptations mean no results for you.
No results would discourage you from training, especially since you put in all this hard work in the gym.
Training to fail increases the amount of time it takes to recover, and if you are always training to fail, your body is not able to keep up.
Along with recovery issues, multiple studies also show a decline in performance, increase muscle damage (soreness), and increases levels of fatigue.
What does this mean?
When you train to fail, you’re going to be more sore and tired. When you go back to the gym the next day, this fatigue and soreness will damper your performance for that day’s session.
This decline in performance in the gym will hurt your ability to see results. The body is in constant repair mode and cannot put resources into adapting, just healing.
EXCEPTIONS FOR TRAINING TO FAILURE
Just as in anything in this life, there are always exceptions to the rule.
You don’t have to completely avoid training to fail but be careful on when you do.
I suggest that you avoid training to failure with your big compound lifts. You risk your form breaking down, increasing the risk of injury. If you were to train to failure with compound lifts, you are testing yourself with low reps.
There’s the traditional 1 rep max that is to fail. For most people, it’s unnecessary for the 1RM, but I do like 3RM and 5RM to gauge where your strength is. For this, I recommend only 2-3x per year to test your strength.
Another way you could use it is to help you decide if you should go up in weight when you perform the exercise again. For example, you are doing a dumbbell bench press for 3 sets of 10 reps. The first 2 sets felt easy, and you want to know if you should go up in weight. On the last set, go as many reps as you can with good form. If you can hit 4 or more reps, you should go up in weight the next week.
This is only the last set of the exercise and is used to judge whether to increase weight or not. If you feel very confident about increasing your weight, you can skip the test. I like doing it if it’s questionable or not. Also, the key is form failure, once you feel the form break, stop!
As you can see, it’s not black and white with training to failure. Just as with anything in life, it depends.
I hope that I gave enough context on when to use it and when not to use it. Your training should be leaving a few reps in the tank and leaving the failing on special occasions.
The risk outweighs the reward with training to failure, especially when you do it consistently. Avoid this risk by leaving 2-3 reps in the tank and as mentioned earlier, use training to fail to gauge your strength, or when to go up in weight.
I hope this helps with your training, if you have questions, reach me at email@example.com