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Old 12-16-2011, 06:03 AM   #1
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Default do you need to train to failure?

I basicly just lift as much as I can and just assumed that you had to go close to failure to make good gains

do you need to train to failure to gain muscle and strength ? if not how close do you have to go
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Old 12-16-2011, 08:12 AM   #2
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No. In fact, most of the time you shouldn't. There are a couple problems with going to failure, the biggest being that you won't have much left afterwards. Think about it this way; if you do a set of pull ups and you fail at 12, then even a couple minutes later you probably will only be able to do 1 or 2. Now say you do a set and stop at 9 or 10. 2-3 minutes later you can probably do another set of 9, and 2-3 minutes after that you can probably do a set of 8. Now instead of doing 13 total reps, you've done 27. Which do you think will force your body to adapt by getting stronger?

Our humble leader, Bendthebar, is a fan of doing a large number of sets with heavier weights and low reps. Sometimes he'll do 10 sets of a heavy lift with 2 or 3 reps per set. That's 20-30 reps with an extremely heavy weight that he could probably only do 5 or 6 times if he went to failure.

There are times when failure is useful. There are certain movements where partial reps help you hit more muscle fibers by actually going PAST failure. One example is DB bench. On that one you just keep pushing the weights as high as you can even when you can't lock out anymore. Although I'm not a huge fan of leg extensions, they are great for partial reps when you get to the point in a set where you can't lock out your legs at the top. Just wait a few seconds then bust out a few partials, going as high as you can. Do that cycle and rest and rep out a few times right after a hard squat session and you'll have trouble making it to the gym door afterwards. These partial rep sets are great to finish off a muscle group at the end of a session.

There are other goal based benefits of failure training. I've noticed that doing lots of sets to failure will really increase your ability to recover between sets. In my training for the Army I've been forced to do lots of push ups to failure. At this point I can do quite a few hard sets of push ups with only seconds of rest in between. So if for some reason you have the goal of increased inter-set recovery, then higher rep sets to failure are the ticket.
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Old 12-16-2011, 08:54 AM   #3
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Solider said a lot of good things so I won't add much.

Progression of weight is what's important. Some exercises are much easier to train to failure than others, so I occasionally accidentally hit failure on these lifts. But in general the toll failure takes upon my body and CNS, especially when the weight gets heavy, makes it something I avoid. I stop all sets when I feel like I may lose form or fail on the next rep.

In general the only thing I care about is improving on my last workout by at least one rep. You do not need to fail, but you do need to progress.
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Old 12-16-2011, 09:02 AM   #4
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Training to-failure has it's good points and bad points. To keep it simple; training to-failure can be really tough on the CNS and isn't really required to make good gains.

But training to-failure once in a while can be a good thing because it tells you where you are at in your progress and can give you a real big growth response. But, staying one or two reps short of failure seems to be a good way to do things a majority of the time.

There's a saying; Training to failure teaches your body to fail sooner.

There is a little truth to that saying. Your body is highly adaptive; if you constantly apply a stimulus like to-failure training to it, it will find ways to combat it. At first it will get stronger, but if it can't keep up it will start shutting things down early to avoid the trauma.
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Old 12-16-2011, 09:02 AM   #5
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ha...I couldnt get here fast enough...solid advice from Solider and BTB!

You need to progress bottomline
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Old 12-16-2011, 10:10 AM   #6
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Soldier that post is great!!

One must be able to recognize failure, failure can be very subtle. If you fail to get this message your body is sending you are at risk for injury. Failure is the inability to do another rep WITH PROPER FORM, not simply the inability to do another rep.
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Old 12-16-2011, 11:21 AM   #7
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Another thing I've noticed that's frustrated the hell out of me is that training to failure also won't help you be able to do more reps before failure. In the Army we have to do a fitness test that involves push ups to failure, sit ups to failure and a 2 mile run. With all the sets of pushups we do to failure, my total push ups have actually gone DOWN. At my first test I did 62 push ups before failing, then 59, then 57 the other day. My run has gotten much better, but the training I was doing before I started doing pt with soldiers was much better for increasing my push ups.

The best way to do the most of something before failure is greasing the groove, which is doing tons of sets shrot of failure throughout the day. Back when I was doing that type of training my push up total was going up every time.
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