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If you are training to failure, are you making a huge mistake? In this video, I am going to explain the importance of knowing what failure is and how to apply it to your training when it comes to building muscle. This might be one of the most important videos I have ever made and I want to make sure that you understand how critical this concept is if you want to build more muscle.

It starts with knowing what you are training for: strength versus hypertrophy to be specific. When you are training for strength applications, whether that is through percentage based training or the use of RPE, you aren’t aiming for failure. As a matter of fact, this is a situation where you need to be training short of failure.

The irony of this situation, however, is that you need to know what your failure point is in order to gauge your percentage or RPE number. Just remember, though; your maximum effort is your last rep – knowing that you cannot complete another rep at all.

When it comes to muscle growth, your knowledge of failure becomes that much more important. This starts with defining what failure is. We know that there are a myriad of forms of failure; there is form failure (not being able to complete another rep in good form), mechanical failure (not being to move the weight at all), or even eccentric failure (not being able to control the weight through the eccentric portion of the lift even after using a little cheat or momentum to get the weight moving through the concentric).

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There is also a nuance in the type of lift you are performing. Reaching failure on a pulling exercise is going to look much different than on a pushing exercise. Take the lat pulldown versus the bench press for example; with the lat pulldown, you are able to cheat your way through a few extra reps by using a little extra momentum on the concentric. On the other hand, the bench press does not allow for any cheating through the use of momentum.

Leg training is more like the pushing exercises as well, there is a lack of momentum that can be used on most exercises.

Now, another factor of training to failure that has to be taken into account is what rep range you are training in. When lifting in a lower rep range, such as 4-6 reps, you will notice that fatigue comes very quickly and failure is reached within a rep of that fatigue. In moderate rep ranges, such as 8-12 reps, failure starts to approach later, but you are able to squeak out at least another rep or two. In higher rep ranges, your ability to grind through reps where you are fatigued becomes greater.

Some might think that those repetitions where you have to grind them out, when reaching failure, is considered form breakdown. If you take the examples that I am showing you in this video, you can see that the reps are still attempted and completed in good form. They reps still look like the exercise that is being performed. In this case of pulling exercises, this is where you allow for a little cheat / momentum. On the pushing exercises, you won’t be able to cheat them, but as long as the repetitions look like they are supposed to (in terms of form) then you need not worry.

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The problem with all of this, however, is the lack of knowledge of failure is and when it occurs. Why? If you don’t know what failure is when training to build muscle, especially when you are prescribed to stop short of failure, then you are leaving gains on the table. You might be quitting the set when you have more reps in the tank. RPE and reps in reserve are hard to gauge without knowing what failure looks and feels like. The problem here is you might be gauging your reps too short of failure – you might be basing this off of initial fatigue, not true failure. So when you are told to train with reps in reserve or RPE, instead of stopping short of 12 reps, you might be stopping short of 8 reps when you could have pulled out a few more that would have been your ultimate failing point.

The fact of the matter is that you need to have knowledge of what failure is, what it looks like, and most importantly, what it feels like if you want to build more muscle.

If you are looking for a complete step-by-step training program that will have you training like an athlete so that you can look like an athlete, be sure to head over to athleanx.com and find the workout program that matches your goals.

For more videos on how to build muscle and take your gains to the next level, make sure you subscribe to this channel here on you YouTube and remember to turn on notifications so that you never miss a new video when it’s published.

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38 thoughts on “Training to Failure for Muscle Growth (HUGE MISTAKE!)”
  1. *THE GIVEAWAY IS BACK* – I’m giving away my brand new complete 90 Day Beaxst PPL program to 40 lucky clickers within the first hour this video is published! Remember, this is NOT THE FIRST 40, but those randomly selected within the first hour the video is published. Click the link to see if you’ve won. No strings attached! Clicking twice does nothing. Only one entry per video. Remember to watch to the end for more workouts.
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    If you don’t win, no worries, you’re not going away empty handed. Just be sure you have your notifications turned on so you can get to my next video quickly and try again. Good luck and thanks for being a loyal subscriber…

    1. It kinda is fun. You know what you’re made of. OK, it’s not a war or a Colosseum gladiator battle (I would encourage people to avoid violence) but it’s the safe/responsible way to feel some of that primal feeling and sense of drama. Even if you’re combating yourself, from body’s perspective, it’s the same thing

    2. Failure is amazing. It’s my greatest motivator to go to gym and bring myself to that point again and again. Nothing feels more masculine

  2. I was so afraid I was training for hypertrophy all wrong. Like I’m not supposed to go to muscle failure!?!? This got me for a second.

  3. This is an excellent video. Doctrinal terms with clear, precise definitions improve our ability to communicate, especially in situations where context is so important. Maybe a “fitness term defined” at the end of each video? Coach – setting and enforcing standards for improving our workouts once again.

  4. Before I enter the gym.
    1. Leave ego at the door.
    2. Work Hard/Stay Humble.
    3. Who cares what others think; they will think it anyway.
    4. You versus You (Thanks Jeff).

  5. Perfect video at the right time. So glad you included an example of the Straight Arm Push Downs. I did those yesterday and was questioning on the failures. Same with the Pull Downs.

  6. Thanks to your channel, Jeff, I tell myself near the end of a rep “Train like an athlete!” and it gives me that extra push to form-failure. 6-months into your program I could not be more satisfied!

  7. 0:40 Strength
    1:20 Form Failure
    2:08 Mechanical Failure, Concentric/Isometric/Eccentric Failure
    3:05 Push/Pull/Leg, Heavy/Moderate/Light, Compound/Isolation

    3:50 Heavy Pull
    6:10 Moderate Pull
    7:40 Importance of determine your true Failure
    8:35 Light Pull
    10:05 Beginner

    11:35 Heavy Push
    12:25 Moderate Push
    13:15 Rep Pacing
    14:10 Light Push

    1. @Josh Karian Wrote this for myself, others watching the video or not is up to them.

  8. Love seeing you guys. Always quality content, always encouraging. Thanks for giving us the tools to be better, and better, and keep pushing.

  9. I also believe there is a lot of value of being able to work through through full range of motion and to emphasize the stretch portion of the lift. For instance like on a pull up being able to hang at the bottom for at least 1 second with elbows fully extended and shoulders at nearly full flexion gives the greatest lat stretch and places extreme load to the muscle! Great video Jeff!

  10. Gold! The title of this video should have been, “What it means to GRIND”. I love how you showed videos of the different levels and what a decent grind looks like with good form and how you can tell from spacing/time between reps. Great stuff.

  11. Really useful video, as a solo trainer clarified for me what I should be aiming for, thanks.

  12. As a 40 year old who’s getting into lifting, I had to redefine what it meant to be disciplined. When I was younger, discipline meant always going hard, getting one more rep, not being lazy. Now, discipline means checking my ego at the door, keeping the weight under control, don’t push through with bad form.

    1. I learned this at 13 years old. Thankfully, I never pushed myself enough hard to get injured, but I had gotten very close to on several occasions.

    2. @Sulptra Ok, when I was younger, I didn’t know it was possible to get injured lifting unless I dropped a dumbbell on my head. But now, my joints are weaker than my muscles and I have to be on the lookout for the slightest elbow pain or weakness in the shoulder, or creaky knees…

    3. ​@SulptraI don’t think he had an injury. He’s just more thoughtful about his body in his 40s because he could hurt himself if not careful.

    4. You seem to be lying. You claimed to be getting into lifting at 40, yet also when you were younger you’d weight train with intensity.

  13. Going to true failure is not just about wearing your muscles down as much as you can. Your also working your nervous system, and that true failure rep where you are giving it everything you have, is stimulating your nervous system to send a strong signal to your muscles.

  14. Excellent video as always by the guys. Just a little warning to those who are going to train to failure more, be ready for a lot of muscle sorness. Make sure to allow extra time for recovery before hitting the same muscles again. But you probably already knew that, cause were all pros from listening to Jeff and Jess.

  15. Great talk. Push the limits to find the limits. I remember the Athlean-X “22 days” pull-up video and testing max hang time. I thought there was NOTHING left in the tank for hang time but then I closed my eyes and pushed myself to just keep hanging on. I got around another 30 seconds of hang time AFTER I decided that there was nothing left

  16. I’ve been watching your videos for 5+ years, and you got me into training to (or close to) failure. Prior to watching your videos, I had no intention of training to failure as I was under the impression that the idea was to push oneself to the point where form breaks down to such a degree that the exercise becomes downright dangerous. But incorporating the concept of training to failure into my training has really helped me grow – both physically and mentally.
    Previously, I would leave the gym thinking “it’s so refreshing to move your body”. Now my glutes and quads almost give in walking up the three steps to the showers.
    I do full body workouts mixing explosive moves and heavy ones, and I will generally leave 1 rep in the tank for the first 2 sets of my heavy exercises and then go to failure on the last set, however, I don’t have a spotter, so how close to failure I go depends on what feels safe. For squats, I take it to the point where I don’t feel that I will be able to complete the next rep, so I don’t get stuck at the bottom of a rep. For overhead presses, I go to concentric failure on the last set and then do 1-2 cheat reps with a controlled eccentric. And for bench presses, I stick with dumbbells so I can drop them if need be. And it’s quite clear that I’m doing this compromise with the squat as that is my weakest lift and the one progressing the slowest – but I’d rather go slow than get hurt.

  17. I like this format. Just calm and sensible discussion. And I know I don’t train to failure, a couple reps or so shy of it. On the other hand, I am 70 years old.

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