Last Update  On January 24, 2012
Training To Failure Vs. Training To Form Failure

by Vladi
Training to failure has been discussed a lot of times and there are respectable arguments for doing it but I think that far too many people get the whole thing too close to their hearts.

First there is absolutely no reason to attempt a rep you won't be able to do. It makes no sense and yet everybody is doing it. Of course I used to do it as well. Sometime not so long ago I would go for 5 RM squat and I will do two reps and know immediately after that there won't be anymore coming and yet I will go for another one. Did I accomplish something ? Yes, hurting myself.

Each exercise has a certain groove in order for it to be effective. Once you get out of that groove and go into survivor mode you are no longer getting the same benefits from the movement while exposing your joints to a higher risk. Because we all know that forms suffers a lot when we fight for that last rep. That's why I prefer training to form failure. You perform as much reps as you can with good form and when you know that the next rep will be an ugly one you call it a day. Let's be rational here - do you think one half ass rep is what makes you progress. No. The reps before is what drives progress.

"Train to form failure not total failure."

I like to use pull-ups as an example. What do people do when they struggle for that last rep? They usually cut the range of motion or let their chest cave in while using mainly arms to get up. Both are diminishing the benefits of the exercise. I would rather rest 10 seconds and perform 1-2 more reps with good form than doing ugly reps. This is the so called rest/pause principle. Use it.

"Hm...bro..but you said that you like H.I.T. What happened?"

I like the idea of H.I.T. which to me is quite simple - it's the quality that matters. However I don't think going to total failure where your form suffers is worth the trouble. Actually I think that even die hard H.I.T. Jedis will agree. Turning each set into a survivor is counter-productive in the long run.

"Hmmm....Dorian Yates says you should do partial reps after you reach failure? He knows more than you do. He got some epic size from it. Fuck you man !

Ok. I know that he recommends partial reps and total failure. I've tried it and it's fine for certain exercises like side raises but makes absolutely no sense for power exercises like - barbell rows, bench press, Romanian deadlifts...etc. To each his own.

The size of Dorian Yates is not due to the partial reps done at end of each set. Dorian Yates was around 270-300+ lbs at 5'11. Reg Park was 225-250 at 6'1. I doubt that Yates trained harder than Reg Park. I really do. Yet he is over 50+ pounds bigger. Why?

Keywords: growth hormone, insulin, steroids. (partial reps didn't quite make it to the list).

More questions?

"Yes...you are so stupid. How is my body going to get the memo and get bigger if I don't go to failure? I don't want to train like my grandmother. Got it?"

You should train to form failure not like your grandmother. The minute you feel that the next rep will take you out of the groove cut it. I don't want you to get the illusion that each rep should be textbook. It's impossible and small deviations will happen whether we want it or not. However gross form issues should be avoided. Training to form failure and avoiding total one does exactly that.

Good luck. Have Fun.
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