How Often To Train To Failure

Training to positive failure, i.e until you can no longer raise the bar to the top position in a set, is a topic that is going to have a myriad of different opinions, and it is certainly going to result in a lot of arguments. How often should we train to failure, should we train to failure at all, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of such a training system. Not to mention the more advanced technique of training to negative muscular failure.

All of these points will be addressed in this article. First let’s look at what we REALLY mean by training to failure, many trainees really do not appreciate just how brutal this actually is. Don’t forget that the harder you train the less bodybuilding training frequency you need.


Training To Positive Failure

When we talk about training to positive failure we are talking about reaching the point in a set of reps where we can no longer raise the bar all the way up. This may be not being able to get the bar up in a set of barbell curls, pushing as hard as we can but no longer being able to lock out in the extended position in a set of shoulder presses, or (and this is very dangerous) getting stuck in the bottom position in a set of squats.

To failure training means that we simply cannot move the bar more than a a tiny amount in an upward direction.

And it is BRUTAL!

Many people believe they have trained to positive failure when this is not the case at all. True “to failure training” should leave us exhausted, our muscles will be gorged with blood, and we will probably need a bit of a lie down. But this is as nothing to training to negative failure

Training To Negative Failure

This is a whole other ball game.

If you are wondering

Should I Train To Failure

Then you should know that there are some benefits to this kind of weight training, but, as we shall see later on in this article, it must be used in the correct way, and with the right frequency.

To negative training is the most brutal form of this kind of training and can make severe inroads into your body’s recuperative abilities. This is, in reality training beyond failure, as we will need assistance in the form of a spotter or a body movement, to get the bar to the top position. Let’s say we are performing a set of barbell curls. We have reached the point of positive failure in our bodybuilding routine, we can no longer raise the bar to the top position.

We no have two options, we can use a spotter to apply some force to the bar to help us lift it to the top, or we can swing our body to get the same effect. This is known as “cheating”. Once in the top position we slowly lower the weigh, ideally to a 4 second count. This action is repeated a number of times, until we basically cannot fight against the downward force of the weight, and it literally drops from our exhausted hands.

It is taxing on the muscles and the system as a whole in the extreme.

Should I Train To Failure

What does it mean to train to failure?

It means that

You can no longer lift the bar to the top position

Your normal set of reps is finished

Your muscles are gorged with blood and severely taxed

You will have made severe inroads to your system as a whole

Recovery will take longer than training a rep or two shy of total positive failure

If using negative to failure training you will have pushed your muscles and system to the extreme

Both forms of training take it out of you and recovery will be longer. And this needs to be considered.

So, should you train in this manner.

To Train To Failure Or Not

To Failure Bodybuilding Positives

Weight training to failure should only ever be done on a very abbreviated routine, most trainees would do well to tread the workout routine to build muscle and follow it relatively closely. Learning how to build muscle means that most people need only very brief and infrequent workouts if they want maximum gains.

The positive if training to failure, positive or negative, is that you MAY increase your rate of growth and the rate at which you are able to consistently add weight to he bar. If you are looking to gain weight quickly then this may be the answer to the fastest rate of growth.

Why Not To Train To Failure

The down side of this type of training is that it makes severe inroads into your body’s ability to recover. If you are not used to training like this, and normally stop a rep or two shy of positive failure, than suddenly training like this may mean you cannot train as frequently. And the most workouts you can perform in any given period of time is going to result in maximum growth and gains.

But this is only true if you have recovered from your previous workout. And for many, this means a number of days of rest before performing another weights workout.

It is down to listening to your body and seeing how it effects your training frequency. If you can train more intensely, and still keep progressing with the weights you use, then you are onto a good thing. If training like this makes inroads that are too severe and you simply cannot progress in almost every workout, or at least once a week, then you may find that your body is better suited to training that is a little shy of failure.

This is the one thing you will not hear in most bodybuilding circles, you must listen to your body and train accordingly.

How Often (Train to failure every set?)

So let’s get to the meat and bones of this article, now that we have a little bit of knowledge about what we are getting ourselves into.

Done correctly, with the right nutrition, the right routine and the right level of rest, this type of training can be super productive. So how often should bodybuilding routines be performed to failure? As often as possible as long as it does not severely effect recovery.

If you can keep progressing with the amount of weight you add to the bar, or the number of reps performed each workout, then train as hard as possible. The problem is that may trainees, especially your averagely genetically blessed trainee, may find it takes too much out of them to train like this every workout.


The best solution is to train full body, using to failure techniques, and see how you respond. If you simply take too many days to recover, and it effects your training frequency, then training a rep shy of failure may be best. No two people react the same, so it is up to us to find what our bodies can handle.

If training like this for every set it too much then we may be better of cycling the exercises we train in this manner. Maybe run a cycle of a month or so where you use this style for one body-part only. A month of training the bench press to failure, only as long as you train in a power rack, or have suitable bench press stands, and then switching to focus on another body-part, part may be the ideal solution.

Listen to your body and train accordingly.


Above all else you must ensure that you recover between workouts. If you find it too hard to get in a workout with a respectable period of rest then don’t train in this manner. Or cycle it so that only one exercise per workout is performed in this manner. We want to get big and strong, and this means progressing with weights or reps in a set nearly every, if not every workout.