Training To Failure Boosts Muscle Growth By 60%

Training to failure

How hard should you hit a muscle to optimize results?

Should you be training to failure, or should you stop just short?

This is something which has been debated for many years in the fitness world, with the crux of the matter often being left to personal opinions.

But a mountain of academic research exists which will give you a definitive answer, and it can make a big difference to your results – as much as 60%, in fact.

Today I’ll show it to you.

train to failure

What Is Training To Failure?

If you are new to training, you may not be familiar with this terminology.

“Training to failure means using a weight significant enough that you are unable to perform another rep after the designated target number in your set.”

So if you’re aiming for a ten rep set, that tenth rep should be damn near impossible to pull out of the bag.

training to failure

Is It Superior For Muscle Growth?

In a nutshell, yes.

Training to failure is something I firmly believe in.

If you tackle any of my free workout programs – here – you’ll notice that every workout is a war.

My clients do this for very good reason.

Training a muscle to failure has been scientifically proven to improve muscle protein synthesis (muscle building) by as much as 60%. (1)

That’s right. Sixty percent.

how to train to failure

Training To Failure – What Does Science Say?

Back in 2010, a study published in the PLoS ONE Journal changed the way a lot of people think about training.

I touched upon this study in my recent post comparing high reps vs low reps and I also want to mention it here because one part of the study is very important in answering today’s question.

Researchers from McMaster University, Canada, worked with three groups of subjects who performed the following protocols:

  • 4-5 reps with a weight which caused muscle failure
  • 25 reps with a weight which caused muscle failure
  • 25 reps with a weight which was not heavy enough to cause muscle failure

In the article on  high rep training, I pointed out that the researchers discovered the group performing 25 rep sets with a weight which caused muscle failure (group 2) were able to increase protein synthesis by 60%, giving you every damn reason to ditch your ego and use a higher rep sets in the gym from time to time.

But don’t forget about the third group in that study.

The group who trained with 25 rep sets using a weight which did not cause muscle failure were simply unable to keep up, and built significantly less muscle than either of the other two groups!

So even though the high rep/failure group increased muscle protein synthesis by over 60% compared to the low rep/failure group, both groups were streets ahead of those not training to muscular failure.

training to failure body building

In 2011, a follow-up study took place and reached the same conclusion. (2)

This time the researchers had subjects drinking a whey protein shake 24 hours after performing one of the following three protocols:

  • 4-5 reps with a weight which caused muscle failure
  • 25 reps with a weight which caused muscle failure
  • 25 reps with a weight which was not heavy enough to cause muscle failure

Once again, they concluded that the groups training to failure boosted muscle protein synthesis significantly over the other group.

Russ Howe pti

What It Will Do

Training to failure will increase metabolic stress.

This is a process in the body which causes the release of several key muscle building hormones.

In my high rep article, I touched upon the fact that using higher rep ranges allows you to induce more metabolic stress because you’re hitting both the fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers within a muscle.

Well, training the muscle with a weight which causes failure is absolutely paramount to making this happen.

In fact, this is why the group who trained with their 25 rep max weight in the study above experienced much greater anabolic responses.

Your rep target is used simply as a guide to tell you when the pain should be getting unbearable.

In terms of rep range, there are numerous benefits to be had from training in the 8-12 range as well as the 20-30 range, which is why I have my clients doing both.

Obviously, you’d need to use a different weight for both of those situations, but the one “constant” in this equation is that it should not feel “easy,” we’re always looking to take the muscle to failure in order to maximize potential gains.

training to failure

So there you have it.

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Be sure to get on my free email list – bottom of post – for more tips from me. If you need a tough new workout routine, you can join the 1000’s of men and women around the world who use all of my full training programs right here. They’re also free.


1. Burd, N. A., et al. “Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise In Young Men.” PLoS ONE 5(8): e12033, 2010.
2. Burd, N. A., et al. “Enhanced Amino Acid Sensitivity Of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Persists For Up To 24 Hours After Resistance Exercise In Young Men.” J Nutr. 2011 Apr 1;141(4):568-73.

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