Training to Failure: Advantages and Disadvantages.

While it may sound like a simple method, training to failure has always been surrounded by supporters, critics and polemics. Let's look at what this training is about and why there’s so much discussion about it.
Training to Failure: Advantages and Disadvantages.

Last update: 07 September, 2018

Like any other workout method, training to failure has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Generally, the disadvantages are related to a wrong execution. So it’s extremely important to know the basics of this type of workout and exactly how it should be performed.

What is training to failure?

Woman doing a push up to failure.

Training to failure consists of performing exercises with more weight than we would normally use. The main characteristic of this type of workout is that it doesn’t involve a specific number of repetitions; the limit is whatever number of repetitions the athlete is able to make.

Its main goal is to gain muscle mass. This happens because the myofibers that form the muscles, break -muscular hypertrophy- or as sarcoplasm becomes better at storing energy.

Basically, people who choose this type of workout claim that if you don’t work a muscle until exhaustion , it  won’t grow. Because of this, training to failure aims to push the muscles to their limit of resistance. In other words, the more you exhaust your muscles during a workout, the more they’ll grow.

Next, we’ll analyze the positive and negative effects of working out like this. Obviously, it’s advisable to always ask for help from a professional before you work out.

Likewise, you should also take into consideration complementary aspects, such as adequate rest and nutrition. Some people recommend consuming a good amount of protein after training to failure. However, a professional doctor should always support this decision.

Benefits of training to failure

  • It boosts muscle hypertrophy: performed with the appropriate frequency and modality, training to failure favors the metabolic process. Especially if sub maximal loads are used (80 percent of the maximum capacity), this way fiber ruptures are more efficient.
  • It improves muscle strength quickly: some studies claim that training to failure accelerates strength gain in the first few weeks of training. But progress eventually becomes comparable with other types of training.

That’s why most professionals recommend training to failure when your goal is to gain muscle mass. However, when your goal is to gain resistance, power or speed this may not be what you’re looking for. On those occasions, a specialist must evaluate each specific case.

Generally, training to failure should be done with precaution. Doing it excessively will have negative effects for your body. Likewise, it won’t work if you don’t do it with a certain regularity.

Disadvantages of training to failure

Man with a shoulder injury.
  • Higher risk of injury: some professionals are against training to failure because they claim that it’s an aggressive way to exercise the muscles. They say that these excessive demands can lead to muscle injuries.
  • It can compromise your technique: by taking the muscles to their limit, you can perform an incorrect or uncoordinated movement resulting in an injury. Be careful with this when you’re training to failure.
  • Hormonal deregulation: performing these types of routines too often or on a daily basis, will lead to high levels of cortisol and very low testosterone levels, while you’re at rest. This would eventually lead to catabolism, which is harmful for muscle building.

Tips to keep in mind

To avoid the first two disadvantages that we mentioned, it’s advisable to alternate training to failure with other types of workouts during the week. Plan your sessions. For example, work on strength building one day, on toning your muscles another day, and training to failure on a subsequent day. This will of course, depend on your own individual schedule and coach.

In addition, it’s essential to perform these exercises with the help from another person. So that when your muscles can’t lift any more weight, your partner will help you to take away the load.

Finally, we have one last recommendation to do with warming up and getting prepared. All of these exercises must be done after a proper warm-up. And you must previously workout to develop muscles that are able to handle large amounts of weight and a high level of exhaustion.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.