Is Training to Failure Optimal

You probably heard that a number of sets you do during your workout should be done to failure. Some people say that you should do every set to failure, while others claim that only the last set should be done to failure. Some trainees even say that you shouldn’t be doing sets to failure, instead you should stop one or two reps before you reach muscular failure. So, which one of these claims is true ? let’s see what some of the muscle monster professionals have to say.

Evan Centopani

” I know that most of the trainees would like a definite answer to this question, but this is impossible because we are all different in some way.

For example, Dorian Yates has said that at the top of his career, that even two sets of a particular exercise were not optimal, so he dropped the sets to one and he saw better results.

The problem with doing only one set to failure is that you really need to focus on that particular set and give 100%, because you will not have a second chance. I think everyone should experiment and see what works for them.

Some bodybuilders do all their sets to failure and have excellent results. Some people never go to failure, and yet continue to build muscle mass. So I think it’s good to try both extremes, and anything in between. It all comes down to recovery. Some are able to recover quickly and for them it would be better to have multiple sets to failure.

If you are recovering fast enough, it would be logical to do multiple sets to failure rather than less, because it will stimulate more muscle growth in one workout.”


Victor Martinez:

I don’t believe in series to failure at all, and this was the first thing I learned during my 3 years of powerlifting when I was younger. Suppose that your 1 RM (rep with maximum weight) is 400lbs. You start to warm up with with 135lbs, but you can not go to failure. You will have to do 100 repetitions to get to failure and you’re too tired for the next sets to come.

Also you need to think of your nervous system. You can not take every single set to failure, otherwise you will burn your central nervous system. Good luck with the progress if you do this!

Carrying all sets to muscular failure doesn’t make your workout better. What I like to do is to increase the weight with every set while reducing the reps. For example – 20, 15, 10 . I only go to failure on the last set or two.  This has worked great for me over the years.


Juan Morel:

Moderation is the best answer to such issues. If you do all the sets to failure, you’re going to burn your nervous system and won’t have the energy to continue with the workout. On the other hand, if we do not go to failure, muscles never get the intense stimulus that is needed to trigger muscle growth.

So, for me it depends on how many work sets I will do for the particular exercise. If the exercise is squat, where maybe I would do 5 work sets, the last 2 or 3 would be to failure. I also believe in high-volume training. I sometimes need to cut off the sets and volume or shorten my workout. You should listen to your body.


Steve Kuclo:

Taking every set to failure is not ideal for me. I think there is more logic if you only go to failure on the last set or two of the exercise. Of course you have limited energy which you can use in a single workout. If you give 100% on the first working sets, how will you complete the following sets? You’ve probably heard that you can train hard and train long, but not both?

I prefer to increase the weight and intensity as I go up the sets in order to reach the last sets where you go all-out. For me it is a concept for warming up, until the last series to failure. Make every set progressive, until the last set that should definitely be the most difficult.

I disagree with taking every set to failure. If you do not break your limits, the body will have no reason to adapt and grow. It is necessary to reach a new level, which you have not reached previously if you want your body to continue to grow. I personally do not know any bodybuilder who did not work on any sets to failure.

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