Training to failure and stopping short of failure had similar increases in muscle growth, strength, and muscle activation. Non-failure training tended to result in greater muscle growth responses.
NON FAILURE TRAINING BETTER FOR MUSCLE GROWTH SUMMARY
· Training to failure and non failure training results in similiar muscle growth, strength, and muscle activation.
· Non-failure training tended to result in greater muscle growth responses.
OPTIMAL VOLUME FOR HYPERTROPHY
For those who have been in the weightlifting scene for the past decade, the concept of training to complete muscular failure has been a steadfast principle touted for maximizing muscle growth. Proponents argue that pushing muscles to their absolute limits enhances muscle fiber recruitment, triggers a surge in hormone release, promotes cellular swelling, and induces more muscle damage, all of which are believed to contribute to hypertrophy (1).
However, recent research challenges this long-held belief. These studies suggest that muscle activation is comparable whether you train to complete muscular failure or stop just short of it, given the intensity remains consistent (2). It’s worth noting that many of the earlier studies comparing the effects of training to failure versus not training to failure might have been skewed. This is because they didn’t ensure that the total volume (i.e., reps) was consistent across both protocols.
For example, the group training to failure did more reps than the non-failure training protocol and a greater total workload. When examining muscle growth responses, it is important to ensure the protocols use the same reps and sets so that both groups perform a similar workload.
DOES TRAINING TO FAILURE INCREASE MUSCLE GROWTH
Researchers had untrained men perform leg extensions to complete muscular failure 2-3 times per week. The other leg was trained short of failure, with approximately 1 repetition left before failure. The researchers examined muscle hypertrophy responses, muscle strength, and muscle endurance after 14 weeks of training. They also measured EMG responses to measure muscle activation in response to each protocol. The researchers ensured that the total amount of reps performed was similar for the groups. For example, if the training-to-failure leg completed 40 reps total over 4 sets, then the non-failure leg did 40 reps but kept short of failure.