December 16, 2019

When Best To Fail

I have an interesting tidbit to add following last weeks email on training to failure.

To recap: 
Vieira, et al. (2019) found that lifting to failure vs almost failure is equally effective for increasing strength in trained subjects, but training to failure accumulates more fatigue. 

These findings have been consistent across previous research however, what we should add is that this effect is specific to the load and rep ranges used.

For example, data from a 2011 study (1.) showed that when training with heavy loads to failure, fatigue is higher than when not training to failure, but… 

It is also higher when training with light-moderate loads (10-12RM) and leaving 2 reps in reserve. 

In fact, training with heavier loads (5RM) to failure caused the same or less fatigue than training with light to moderate loads for higher rep ranges with reps to spare. 

So the benefits of leaving 2 reps in the tank are void if using a 10-12RM load rather than a 5RM load.

For my beloved coaching clients reading, this is why:

  1. We never really touch failure on volume blocks
  2. Strength loss is greater after each set and workout with higher reps. 
  3. 5’s and under feels like a dream while 10+ leaves you questioning why you do it. Often for days after. 

For everybody else, this is one reason why getting your programming handled by a professional who is up to speed with the research can save you years of frustration. This game is up to the neck in nuance.

On that note, I’ve had a couple of spots open up to be able to accept new coaching clients, either in-person or online. 

If getting your technique, programming and results dialled to a certainty sounds appealing to you, simply leave a comment or shoot me an email and let’s talk. 

If we’re a good fit, I’d love to help. 

Catch you again soon.

1. Velocity loss as an indicator of neuromuscular fatigue during resistance training. Sanchez-Medina, L., & Gonzales-Badillo, J.J. 2011.


Danny James

Danny James is a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Personal Trainer with over ten years of experience working with the fastest track and field youth athletes in the country. He lives in Sydney, Australia with his beautiful wife Fabiana. Sign up for Danny's free newsletter and receive tips, insights and exclusive email-only content.

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