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Should you Train to Failure Every Set?

blog Oct 07, 2023

Should you Train to Failure Every Set?

Training to failure is a popular technique in fitness, especially for muscle-building goals. However, it's crucial to strike a balance and understand when and how to use this approach effectively. In this blog post, we'll delve into the concept of training to failure, the benefits it offers, the exercises to consider, and how to incorporate it into your training routine safely and efficiently.

Effective Reps for Muscle Growth

When training for muscle growth (hypertrophy), effective reps play a vital role. Effective reps refer to the last few repetitions before you reach failure, where your muscle fibers are optimally stimulated. To achieve the best results in muscle development, focus on getting within this effective rep range during your workouts.

Choosing the Right Exercises for Failure

While training to failure can be beneficial, it's essential to choose exercises that are safe to take to failure. Compound movements like the barbell back squat may not be the best choices, as other muscle groups may fatigue before your target muscles (e.g., quads) do. Instead, opt for exercises like bicep curls or lateral raises, which are safer to take to failure without sacrificing form or risking injury.

Task Failure vs. Muscular Failure

Task failure occurs when factors like coordination, balance, or cardiovascular strain become limiting factors before your target muscle reaches fatigue. In hypertrophy training, our aim is for target muscle failure first. If you notice that other muscles or factors are hindering your target muscles from reaching failure, consider choosing alternative exercises that provide more external stability, such as hack squats or split squat variations.

Understanding RIR and RPE Scales

To gauge your proximity to failure, you can use Reps in Reserve (RIR) or Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scales. However, to accurately utilize these scales, you need to occasionally take some movements to failure. This experience will help you better understand your true RIR scale, as research shows that people often underestimate their RIR skill.

The Frequency of Training to Failure

The frequency of training to failure depends on the movements you select and your overall training program. Compound exercises that involve multiple muscle groups should not be taken to failure frequently due to their taxing nature. In contrast, smaller, isolated exercises can be taken to failure more often without causing excessive central nervous system fatigue.

Striking the Right Balance

To harness the benefits of training to failure, it's essential to strike the right balance. Incorporate exercises where you can safely reach failure without compromising form or risking injury. Also, vary the frequency of training to failure based on the muscle groups involved and your overall training plan.


Training to failure can be an effective tool for muscle growth when used strategically. By understanding effective reps, selecting suitable exercises, and paying attention to your body's signals, you can optimize your muscle-building journey. Remember, it's not about training every exercise to failure but using this approach judiciously to stimulate muscle growth and achieve your fitness goals effectively.

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