Training to Failure: Part 1

If I had to pick one thing that holds people back more than anything else it would probably be training to failure. Of course, proper program design, a good diet and a lot of sleep are the three biggest keys. But, assuming those bases are covered, I firmly believe there is nothing more detrimental to your progress than training to failure on a regular basis.

After nearly two decades in the industry I’m at the point where I can watch someone train for 30 minutes and instantly spit out on-the-money predictions about what kind of progress they will make in the next 12-16 weeks. And I’m no brain surgeon.

If they routinely use extra psyche techniques before sets, do slow, grinding reps, let their form get sloppy, scream their way through the end of a set, or really do anything less than technically perfect, explosive reps throughout the course of a workout I know for a fact, exactly what’s going to happen. I’ve just seen it way too many times.

The end result is they make minimal gains, their central nervous systems get fried, their joints get beat up and they always feel like shit.

Those Who “Get it” & Those Who Don’t

In my gym we have some people who get it. Because they get it they make continual progress and never get injured. Those that don’t get it make gains at a snails pace and accumulate nagging injuries over time.

This week we’re testing maxes. We do this no more than four times per year because doing so is too stressful on the CNS. What we will see this week is that the ones who get it will make fantastic progress. Those that don’t will only be up a few pounds, if at all. Some will be weaker.

Now, trust me; I wish it wasn’t like this. I love to train insanely hard. Cranking up some Black Flag and head butting a wall before every set used to be a way of life for me. Nothing sounds like more fun, in fact. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. And that makes me sad. I really wish it did because I love high intensity training in theory. It also makes for a hell of a training atmosphere.

You have to ask yourself, though; do want results or do you want to have fun?

I want both but at the end of the day if my numbers are climbing that’s a lot more fun to me than doing the same weights I did three weeks ago and grinding them up with shitty form. Which is exactly what happens when you go to failure all the time; you make zero progress or you get weaker.

Then you get injured.

It all sucks.

Trust me; I experienced it for years.

So What Do You Do?

For starters, you decide that results are the most important thing. When you accept that you have no choice but to ditch the training to failure routine. I did it a while ago and it’s made a world of difference. Everyone I’ve convinced to do the same has experienced similar, outstanding results.

This is not an excuse not to train hard. You always have to train hard. On a side note, be on the lookout for my inevitable follow up article coming out in a few months entitled, Train Like a Man, You F*cking Pussy.

Every rep you do should be performed as explosively as possible with ONE HUNDRED PERCENT effort. A lot of people don’t get this. They leisurely cruise their warm up sets while whistling Dixie. This is a HUGE mistake.

Always treat light weight like it’s heavy. Warm up and “work up sets” are practice sets. Do them exactly like you will do your heaviest sets; with maximal tension throughout your body and maximal acceleration throughout each rep. When you do them slowly and sloppily you are missing out on the CNS arousal benefits, losing an opportunity to perfect your technique and are more likely to get injured.

The fact is more injuries occur with light weights than do with heavy weights. That’s because people don’t respect a light weight like they do a heavy weight.

When you get to your work sets be sure you always crush every single one of them with explosive speed and power. Make that set your bitch. Don’t ever let it get the best of you and start squirming and slowly grinding your way to the finish.

When you do that you’re fucked.

Plain and simple.

Never do slow, grinding death reps. And NEVER, EVER miss a rep in training or have a partner assist you in getting the weight up.

Never, ever, ever? (Andre 3000 asks)


When you miss a rep you may as well take the rest of whatever training cycle you’re on off. Because your chances of going up next workout after a missed rep that actually came back down on you are pretty dismal. My advice would to take a week off and start something new.


Stay tuned for Part 2  where I’ll cover:

  • How close to failure you should go
  • If beginners can or should go to failure
  • How training to failure affects athletes
  • How training to failure affects the training environment

In the meantime drop me a comment below and let me hear about your experiences with training to failure.

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64 Responses to Training to Failure: Part 1

  1. Raymond - ZenMyFitness November 29, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    Fantastic article … this reinforces for me how to train properly for growth. Since I train by myself I rarely go to failure since there is no one to help me so I guess by default I train like this but always wondered am I missing out on something ..which I don’t have to anymore.

    I thing I wont ever do again is disrespect the weights I have hurt my back just by swinging a light one into position, and will treat each warmup as seriously as a working set.

    Whistling Dixie that’s so funny, Thanks

  2. Louis November 29, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    Great point Jason. I workout alone most of the time so I normally only max out 2 to 3 times a year myself. I have seen guys in the guys who bench 3 to 4 times a week and try to max every week and wonder why after months and months there numbers barely go up and there chest look the same.

  3. Stephane November 29, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    Hi Jason.

    Great article as usual. Since I’m a strength coach up north that solely works with the military, I have difficulty getting them not to train to failure (we can thank CrossFit’s influence + a bit of ego).

    Since, no matter what I say, they keep training to failure, I’ve decreased the overall volume of the sessions and have found much better results.

    If you have any advice dealing with these individuals, I’d love to hear it (I’m guessing this subject will be covered in Part 2).


    Stephane (like Steve but in french)

  4. Brandon Cook November 29, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    Great topic to revisit. I think training to failure has been one of the biggest things that held me back and always led to injury. Everyone always said train to failure and so I would do those stupid death grinding sets to be hardcore, yet it always led to shoulder problems and pain and wasted years I can never get back.

    For hardgainers and ectomorphs, like myself, this is even more destructive because our smaller frame/skeleton is already at a disadvantage to lifting heavier weights. I won’t even mention our limited recovery capacity, which gets totally wiped out by training to failure.

    Looking forward to the next post!

    • lee February 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

      Ha. Im an ectomorph and I Only train to failure. Increasing weights each workout day. Obviously your gonna get hurt if you don’t give more rest, or don’t eat or rest properly that’s basic common sense. But I train to failure and My body is building mass, amd I don’t have to do 1,000 sets.

  5. Brian Matthews November 29, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    I get frying the cns by taking the same old exercises to failure with the same loads week in and week out. But i gotta wonder how 90% plus with a multitude of big ME exercises seems to work so well for some of the strongest (as far as the big 3 lifts are concerned) guys out there. On the bean or not, the conjugate/concurrent/westside (whatever you want to call it) method seems to pump out some pretty beastly boys who hit ME stuff to failure twice a week. I’m with you 100% on the intent to move the weight like it’s made out of styrofoam but as long as you are switching exercises up every 3-4 weeks i see nothing wrong with hitting it heavy and hard. I could be way off base (often am) but let me know how you feel.


    • kevin November 29, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

      @Brian Matthews:


      Elite Power lifters are not taking their ME movements to failure twice a week. CNS fatigue would be an understatement. when you examine the great lifters they all say ” avoid failure.”

    • Jason Ferruggia November 30, 2010 at 10:15 am #

      @Brian Matthews: I’m not saying it doesn’t work. I’ve tried it with a lot of people for a lot of years. What I’m doing now just works better. There’s a reason a lot of guys who used to be big proponents of max effort work, like Jason Pegg and Jim Wendler have switched up their training and moved away from that. No disrespect intended to Westside, of course. The numbers of people who do max effort work vs the numbers who use a more traditional approach staying further from failure and working with a lower percentage of their max is miniscule. Most of the strongest guys of all time didn’t use ME work. Again, it works for some people but it’s not my top choice.

      @Timothy- I haven’t. But there is a HUGE difference between slow, grinding death reps and doing intentionally slow tempo sets. However, they’re both a bad idea in my opinion. Always lift fast.

      @Jedd- Not specifically but I can only imagine that not going to failure would probably elicit better results.

      @ Danny- Good way to judge it.

  6. Timothy Ward November 29, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    I have to disagree with you on one thing you said. You said NEVER do slow grinding reps, ever. Have you seen Bill Hartman’s lecture on energy system training for field athletes? If you are trying to train for slow-twitch fiber hypertrophy, a slow eccentric/concentric tempo might be warranted.

  7. Jedd November 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm #


    Very good post.

    Being that my specialty is hand strength, I actually train to failure quite a bit.

    I was wondering if you had any experience or research about going to failure and how it influences hand / forearm strength.



    • Jerry May 24, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

      Yes Jedd ( not sure if that is appropriate but its your post name so I do mean to address everyone here with respect),

      Me and my brother have trained going to failure, old-school arthur jones metabolic conditioning because we are combat athletes, for years and have had great success……… but I have always found that training my grip to failure was too much and I could never quite match my recovery capacity to my stimulus ( workouts) so all my grip stuff was not to failure.

      This article is quite interesting because Mr.Ferrugia’s experience tells the whole story and I may try to adjust my workouts and see the effect on strength and metabolic conditioning.

      Like most things in physical training finding a way to consistently enact progressive overload is truly the key.

  8. Farley November 29, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    Is that Henry Rollins doing leg extensions?

  9. Danny McLarty November 29, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    Nice Outkast reference! :)

    I let speed be the judge. When the rep speed is slower than rep #1, I shut down the set. At least I do that in theory… sometimes I can’t help myself and throw in an extra rep because I get “caught up in the moment.” Also, for my last set of an exercise I sometimes go a liiitle closer to failure. But I try not to make this a regular thing.


  10. Kirpal November 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    I had a tough time doing chin ups. I still do, but back then I couldn’t even do more than 3 and the third one was the longest and ugliest rep ever. I started doing 5 sets of 2 every other day. And as pathetic as it still is I’m up to 5 chinups with good form now. I’m doing the 20 chinups program right now to bring them up to an acceptable level and Jenn’s recent PR blog really helped me get fired up for it.

    Thanks for the info Jason, I really appreciate it.

  11. Mikael Johansson November 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    Dear Mr Jason Ferruggia,

    I’m a 51-year old man living outside Montreal, Canada. My question is as follows:
    I play hockey twice a week and I’d like to build some muscles in order to be more explosive on the ice. Isn’t training to failure the way to go if you want some explosive leg power?

    Mikael Johansson

    • jim November 30, 2010 at 4:44 am #

      Hi Mikael

      The issue with training to failure is that it teaches your central nervous system to recruit a lot of muscle fibres and in effect might dilute “explosive” strength gains. training to failure is probably on the other spectrum to explosive training. For genuine exlposive training keep the concentric speed up and the exercise needs to be concentric only ie med ball throws, power cleans, in short fast, medium load, low rep exercises.

      hope this helps

    • Jason Ferruggia November 30, 2010 at 10:18 am #

      @Mikael Johansson: No. The exact opposite is true. Always be fast and explosive with your strength training.

      @Kellie- It is very hard. Too many people have been brainwashed.

      @Doug- I prefer never. But you could do it at the end of a training cycle.

      @Ricardo- Thanks for acknowledging that fact. I have been trying to tell all the females that for years but nobody ever listened.

  12. Jimmy November 29, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    Very informative most. Training to failure was something that we read in the magazines, which made us feel like elite bodybuilders. Most often we were banged up and had a hard time recovering due to the enourmous amount of other activities we participated. I later learned that training to failure was something that had to be limited in my training cycle that I used after my heavier sets.

  13. Kellie@motherfitness November 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Wonderful post. I have so many women who think I am crazy when I advise to get in and out of the gym in less than 40 minutes and train only 4 days a week. They tend to think it takes painstaking hours in the gym to get the physique they want. It’s hard to reset someone’s mind into thinking the opposite.

  14. Doug Willick November 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Great mention it’s detrimental to train to failure on a regular basis. I know for weak beginners, it is more acceptable to hit failure but for intermediate and advanced, is it ok once in a while or never?

  15. Doug Willick November 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    I do understand my above question it is kind of a dumb but it would help me alot as I can then tell my clients “No going to failure ever” or just cycle it in every once in a while..Thanks..

  16. Ricardo November 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm #


    Your the fucking man Bro!

  17. Terry Majors November 29, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    I started working out and following a healthy diet about 4 months ago. 3 months I spent in the gym busting my butt to reshape my body by trying to build muscle but also lose belly fat. I’m 38 years old, 5’8″ and weigh 159 with about 13% body fat now. I’m still trying to shed more fat and get to 8% – 10% body fat but decided I also wanted to get bigger so I bought and started your MGS program. I am finishing up week 4 of Beginner Phase 2 where I started because of my experience level. Everything in the instructions calls for 5 sets at 5-8 reps. You mention in the book that every time you go to the gym you should bust your ass to beat what you did last time. I take my training logs with me each time and try to beat my last performance in weight or in reps. So far it’s working and I’m gradually getting stronger each week. I am also nursing a hurt right shoulder that I only feel when doing Military presses. That pisses me off because my military press gains have been minimal because of it. I said all that to give you my background because after reading this article I’m a little confused that maybe I’m doing it all wrong. I turn up the music, psyche myself out and push hard to beat last week! Should I not be doing that? Also what do you mean by “NEVER, EVER miss a rep in training”?

    • Jason Ferruggia December 1, 2010 at 5:57 am #

      @Terry Majors: Terry- Keep doing what you’re doing. The only thing is you might be pushing it a little too hard on the military press and that led to an injured shoulder. Hard for me to say for sure. By never miss a rep in training I mean never have a rep come back down on you. For example if you are struggling and squirming and slowly grinding up an incline press but can’t get it and it either comes crashing down on you or you have to have a training partner grab it that’s a bad thing. Don’t do that. Always finish on a positive.

      @patrick. It’s time to start the cycle all over again. Drop the weight by about 20 pounds or more and start a new cycle of 5×5.

      @kevin- Good point.

      @Vincent- It’s an incline bench press.

      @Wood- You shouldn’t believe me. Keep doing what you’re doing.

      @Bill- Yes and yes. I mean, sure, people will fail from time to time. My point is that you need to learn what that feels like and then try to stay away from it over time.

  18. patrick November 29, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    I don’t intentionally train to failure, but doing the stronglifts 5×5 program I fail on the weight about every other time now. Should I quit before I fail instead of trying to get all 5 reps on the last set?

  19. Vincent November 29, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

    Kinda realise that this is me, big eye opener cause some of my reps get slow when I move up a weight. Thanks for the info!

    Also for maximum mass in minimum time, phase 2 , day 3. Is the 45 degree barbell press like a bench press or a military press? I’m kinda confused.

  20. Wood November 30, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    Tell me one thing why should I believe You, intstead of Mike Menzter or Arthur Jones? There is every week a new training theory comes up. (like the egg yolk, sometimes deadly, sometimes the best thing after the baby milk)
    I train by the HIT principles, because I believe if I dont go to failure, the training send the signal to the body, that “it’s okay, i can handle this..

  21. T November 30, 2010 at 6:15 am #

    I really want part 2

  22. Bill Davis November 30, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    I like the gist of the post. I do have one question, though: How do you know your 1RM if you don’t fail at the next weight up? I mean, you gotta fail sometimes to know you gave it your all, right? It also gives you something to shoot for.

    Now, of course, you can’t do this all the time. I like the idea of 4x a year, max.

    Is testing your max the one time you can fail, under your training programs?

  23. Coach Hernandez November 30, 2010 at 7:49 am #

    Awesome post brother. Looking forward to the next one. Thanks.

  24. Ron Dykstra November 30, 2010 at 7:52 am #

    Hey Jay,

    I wonder if a distinction should be made here between training for athletic results / good health, and training for hypertrophy. It seems like some guys have made the HIT system / going to failure work for hypertrophy, right? Mentzer, Viator and Yates come to mind, or in a more modern incarnation, the DC system has become popular with rest pause training done to failure.

    Curious about your thoughts.


    • Jason Ferruggia December 1, 2010 at 6:05 am #

      @Ron Dykstra: Yes, good point. This is not a bodybuilding site and my methods are not for bodybuilders but rather for athletes and regular people who want to train and look like a badass. I’ve referenced Yates a million times before and am a huge fan. It definitely works and I have used this system plenty. It’s just that for consistent maximal strength gains and enhanced athletic ability I don’t like hitting failure. Gymnasts and Olympic lifters are able to train every day and one of the reasons is because they never hit failure.

      @clement- I know, like and respect Pavel. He is the man. My goal is to create explosive athletes, even if my client is a 48 year old guy like Ralph, who I wrote about a month or so back. I have found what I do to work best for my goals.

      @frank- Simple; lighten the weight. You selected a weight that was too heavy. Or let’s say you get 5 reps on the first three sets but are struggling to do so on the last two. No problem, just do 3 or 4 reps instead and try to get five sets of five at the next workout. Just don’t do death rep, grinders.

      @Steven- I’ve spent the majority of my life in a private gym, with people using proper form. When you see people lifting heavy in a public it’s usually with horrendous form. This is arguable either way. I was trying to make a point of needing to always treat warm ups like your heaviest set. That’s the most important thing.

      @KJS- Looks like a good workout to me.

      @John- Sorry to hear that. Thanks for the comment.

  25. clement November 30, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    Hey Jay, in Power To The People, Pavel talks about NOT lifting explosively. He feels that hyperirradiation is best achieved that way. What are your thoughts on that, seeing as you seem to disagree with him by talking about explosive reps?

  26. JR November 30, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    I think the boys over at Westside play by different rules for the same reason elite bodybuilders play by different rules…Steroids.

  27. frank November 30, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    Good post, Jason.

    Wondering if you or someone can clarify one point:

    If you shouldn’t perform reps to failure AND ALSO not miss a rep…where does that leave you if you’ve got 5 reps to make, but struggle on the 4th? As an example, let’s say you’re doing a 5×5 program and you may grind out the 4th and 5th reps of the last set. How would you address that issue?

  28. Steven November 30, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    Interesting article and I agree with most of it, but
    “The fact is more injuries occur with light weights than do with heavy weights. That’s because people don’t respect a light weight like they do a heavy weight.”

    I don’t believe that statement at all. Most of the injuries, I have seen in the gym are people lifting way too heavy with bad form.

    Good article though.

  29. KJS November 30, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    I went to a trainer that someone hooked me up with. He said I need to do more exercises and more reps. I think he might be a douche. Please confirm.

    Here’s a sample workout I’m doing.

    Squat 3RM then 90%
    Deadlift 3RM then 90%
    Turkish getup (each side) 3×6-8
    Box Jumps 3×6-9

  30. John November 30, 2010 at 5:55 pm #


    Its funny but every time I have had an injury its been while lifting lighter than normal weight. Just today I was doing RDL’s and on 3rd set I heard a pop noise on way up in my lower right side. man did that throw a monkey wrench into my workout.

    If dealing nursing 2 bad shoulders wasn’t bad enough now this. :-( Too many trainers are telling clients to train to failure on every set.

    Love your articles.

  31. Tim November 30, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    Interesting post. I hope people remember this is one side of the story, and as Jason says in these comments, his non-failure method is NOT the ONLY way, but the method he has found more effective. Each of our bodies is different and responds to all different types of training in different and individual ways. This is why you never want to have a trainer who has you do “what works for me”, our bodies are just way too different…My understanding, and hopefully this is more clear in pt2, is that he is saying dont go to failure all the time, it is going to happen sometimes, but dont train with this intent, this part I agree with. The most injuries occuring w/light weights statement seems to be pure opinion-based, Ive never come across that studied anywhere (but could be way off)….one last thing, I have a hard time with NEVER do and ALWAYS do (or dont) statements, Ive made way too many mistakes using these words to take them seriously when read…keep up the interesting work!

  32. Terry Majors November 30, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    This article seems so opposite what you teach in MGS. I even went back and listened to the audio interview that comes with MGS. You say, “once you lowered the volume it made no difference on the CNS and everyone should train to failure because that’s what people like to do. If you don’t like that then you really don’t like training anyway and your not going to be getting into shape.”. Based on the interview you seemed like you were against training to failure and then realized that you really didnt follow your own advice so then changed to saying you should train to failure and this article sounds like you’ve switched back. I’m not trying by any means to point out a contradiction I’m just confused as hell because this seems so against what I learned and have been following with MGS which is bust your ass every week and if you aren’t making improvements then your wasting time and should just stay home and play video games.

    • Jason Ferruggia December 1, 2010 at 6:12 am #

      @Terry Majors: You are correct. That interview was recorded five years ago. In that time I have experimented and learned a ton. If I didn’t I would be a horrible strength coach. I need to record a new interview for that.

      However, I still stand by much of what I said there. For the purpose of that program, geared toward the average male hardgainer, I would still give that same advice today in almost every case.


      Have you ever seen the average guy in the gym train? You want to go up to him, grab him by the shoulders and scream, “grow some f*cking balls and train like you mean it!”

      At my gym I still scream at and force beginners to train as hard as they possibly can. You need to learn what failure is before you know how to avoid it. And for the training atmosphere the intensity in the gym needs to be high.

      The majority of average people need a Vince Lombardi speech before training. The majority of driven individuals, like those who read this site, myself included, need to be held back more often than they need to be motivated.

      So, yes, always train your balls off, but know how and when to leave something in the tank, especially the more experienced and stronger you get. Hopefully that makes sense.

      @Charlie- See my answer above. And yes, your observations are correct and I appreciate you noticing that. Thanks.

  33. Charlie November 30, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    I too have found contradicting statements in some of his stuff. But the way I see it, he is constantly discovering improvements. This tells me that he’s in the trenches everyday determining what works best by putting different workout methods to the test.

    I’ll take this over Joe Trainer who got himself buff by doing 50 reps of bicep curls per day and eating 300 grams of protein. And then tries to administer that to me because he read it somewhere once and it worked on his body.

    We all have different genetics. Everyone is going to react differently to workouts, nutrition, etc. Jason puts in the time to constantly stay up on things…..putting old myths/bad habits to rest, testing new trends, and the list goes on.

    I could be way off, but this is how I see it.

  34. Bill December 1, 2010 at 7:37 am #

    on the big ones – sq ,dl, bp ,cleans , overhead presses i leave a rep or two in the tank as i find i get mentally stale along with opening myself up to injury more as my form breaks down. I rotate diff % weekly on these.

    On assistance i train to positive failure, no forced reps etc. I find it easier to hit rep records on the smaller stuff and easier to hit weight records on the bigger stuff.

  35. Bill December 1, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    I also should have said that when i hit a rep record on assistance and i have more in me i shut it down and take it as is. So i dont always go to failure , just sometimes it happens.

  36. Jason Ferruggia December 1, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    @Bill- That’s a great approach and one I often use and recommend. You can always go harder on assistance stuff, though I still like to stay a bit further away from failure.

  37. Ron Dykstra December 1, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    Hey Jay,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond! Hope all is going well.


  38. Terry majors December 1, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    Jason, thanks for the clarification. I am gonna keep busting my ass as hard as I can and putting up as much weight as possible with good form. I love your stuff and have become a follower for many reasons. Next week starts beginner phase 3.

  39. Jason - Core Routine Workouts December 2, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Great post. There were a few points that stood out for me. I think the biggest is the warm up sets. I breeze through them looking ahead to when I get a chance to move some weight.

    Funny this article should come up. Just today I was working out doing clean pulls. As the weight got heavy the bar got slow, not much faster than a deadlift. I thought this is pointless and dropped weight. Well I workout in a football weight room and of course I was called out for lowering the weight, but I stuck to my guns. Not many people get what you write and that is too bad.

    • Jason Ferruggia December 4, 2010 at 6:10 am #

      @Jason – Core Routine Workouts: Yeah, man; warm up and ramping sets are huge. I hear you that most people don’t get it, though.

      @Vaclav- Unfortunately that’s what it sometimes takes.

      • Vaclav Gregor December 4, 2010 at 6:43 am #

        @Jason Ferruggia: But I’m glad it happened. Because it could be worse than that. We learn from our mistakes, unfortunately in sport or some strength activities and bodybuilding, these mistakes are often synonyms for the injuries.
        And I don’t think I would understand that article if it didn’t happen.

  40. Fred Hahn December 3, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    You said:

    “When you accept that you have no choice but to ditch the training to failure routine. I did it a while ago and it’s made a world of difference. Everyone I’ve convinced to do the same has experienced similar, outstanding results.”

    Could you be more specific? What were you able to achieve by not training to failure that you were able to by training less intensely?

  41. Vaclav Gregor December 4, 2010 at 4:52 am #

    Great article. People and especially guys need to realize that technique is more important than weights. I realized this when I got my knees worn away. Once I wasn’t able to sit down and it was noticable on x-ray I knew something was wrong.

  42. Ben Swogger December 4, 2010 at 8:01 am #

    This is an awesome post Jason. It’s always very refreshing to hear you back up advice that most people would consider “going against the grain” with your personal experience and expermiments.

    I think respecting your warm up sets is very important. After all, it sets the tone for the training to come and it’s a shame that some people just go through the motions and some don’t even warm up at all. Great work as always.

  43. alex December 7, 2010 at 4:01 am #

    kind of conflicts with the nautilus bulletins by arthur jones:

    arthur makes sense becuase he points pout that you cannot work a muscle fibre to varying degrees of intensity – it is either ‘on’ or ‘off’.

    The only way to instigate growth is to keep lifting until more and more muscle fibres get recruited and “the weight literally drops from your shaking hands” i.e. total failure.

    This makes sense from the point of view of giving your body a signal that it could not cope with the demand so needs to grow stronger.

    I have also read about avoiding failure at all costs, especially from the respected bulgarian trainer Milko Georgiev of Spider Stamina, he says failure ‘sends negative feedback to the brain’ – training your CNS that you cant lift that much weight,

    I dont know, it’s rather confusing all in all.

    • Jason Ferruggia December 10, 2010 at 4:06 pm #

      @alex: Been there done that, with myself and 17 years worth of clients. But it’s a lesson best learned through experience.

      But just think about it, how could Olympic lifters and gymnasts continue to get stronger year after year without ever coming close to failure?

      @ John- I mentioned that already. It’s more tried and true than you would ever be able to imagine. All the way back to at least 1906. Nobody started training to failure until recent times; the last few decades. All of the greatest strongmen of all time steered clear of it. The legends of the game. But, again, I advise to try it and learn your lessons with 20-30 years under the bar. You’ll decide what works best in the end.

  44. John December 10, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

    what about Westside, Bulgarian, etc. In westside they train at 90-100 percent on their ME days all the time…seems to work for them. Bulgarian style training involves training near or to failure all the time…

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s as tride and true as you make it seem.

  45. Gym December 20, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    Great post, I agree with an author that there is nothing more detrimental to your progress than training to failure on a regular basis.

  46. Adam August 21, 2012 at 10:29 pm #


    I have a question about slow reps vs explosive reps. I have been weight training for around a year now, and until reading this article, I have always intentionally took time with my reps, not for the sake of maintaining good technique, but because I find slightly slower reps more challenging and not as forced.

    I was wondering if you could go in to more detail about this if possible, as I was wondering if one way is simply better than the other, or if it’s more a question of goals.

  47. Confused? August 29, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Waht about the idea of ‘progressive weight training’
    If your holding out…how can you progress? I’m sick of all the Bs in muscle building scene.I beleive that after 2-3 years of solid training with max effort,will show you your true potential….either you have it or not…if not LEAVE/move on and be done with it.Don’t waste life on your weaknesses….find your own strenghts and EXPLOIT…thats the ‘game’ in our capitalist,western society…isn’t it

    Peace out brothers….and i shall mke money ‘off ya backs’ ;) not mine.

    Proud (now) Pencil neck.
    Nerd Boy Crew

  48. Tony McGurk September 8, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks for an informative article. I’ve been following the THT 5 day split workout from which is a train to failure plan for the past month or so. While it makes me feel like I’ve given each workout my all I have been feeling really drained & tired lately & finding it much easier to skip a workout because I just haven’t felt physically up to it. Your article has given me something to think about & has made me realise why I probably have been feeling so wrecked. At 52 I have only been weight training for 9 months so still have a lot to learn. I have been looking at Stronglifts 5×5 a bit lately so I think I may ditch the failure training & give SL a try.

  49. wayne moore December 28, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    its how u move the weight not how much weight u move doing the exercise short and brief opposed to high volume long duration workouts are more effective i beleive most people that do not incorporate hit in there training are are afraid of it,allow time to recover and then at least 2-3 days for growth thwe heavier the weight the bigger the muscle culture the more recovery time is needed

  50. Tony McGurk December 29, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    Since my previous comment I have now been on a 4 day upper/lower split for the past few months. I haven’t been going to failure but have been able to increase the weight slightly each workout. I am not feeling drained the way I was on the “Train to failure” routine & have been making much better progress. On the Failure routine, training each muscle group once a week, some weeks I would actually have to reduce the weight from the previous week for some exercises. The 4 day upper/lower split is definitely working better for me.

  51. John June 17, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Great stuff.

    Ive intermittently lifted for years. and in the past have gone to failure and actually gotten weaker. Decent diet too. Very frustrating. on week two of a program i made myself and feeling good not going to failure

  52. sam December 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    So what are your opinions on HIT training and and the recommendations by Arthur Jones, Mike Mentzer, Ellington Darden, etc? Every set is taken to failure with HIT and there are plenty of slow “grinding” reps.

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