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Must You Train to Failure to Build Muscle Faster?

Are having problems making progress in your quest for a well-muscled body? Perhaps your progress is just slower than you would like. There are may be things you haven't been doing to increase your size, most likely though it is the failure to train to "complete failure". What does that mean? Here are some tips on how it's done.

When training a body part, the conventional wisdom is to train until you cannot do another repetition, which ensures that the muscle has been stimulated to it's maximum. So this means if you are working your chest doing bench presses, you would continue until you absolutely can't do another rep. Is this a good idea though? If you do this for each set, yes you may get a great workout, however if you do this each exercise and for each set, you will be possibly risking the joints or even tearing a muscle. This idea can be taken to extreme, so going to complete failure is probably not the best on each and every set.

Studies has been conducted by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR) using college-aged women who were split into two groups. The first group performed only one set of barbell squats for exactly 8-12 reps, until failure, while the second group performed multiple sets of lower reps but not to failure. They were sure to make sure the two groups were of similar strength and physical endurance to begin with to make sure this didn't account for any growth differences.

After the experiment was finished, they tested the two groups for strength. The multiple-set, not to failure group improved their squat by about 34.7% on average whereas the single-set, train to failure group only improved their squat by 24.2% on average. This may not sound like much, but it does show at least some evidence that training multiple sets, even if not to failure, are more desirable.

So how are you supposed to train, if not to failure? The goal of course is to either continue getting more reps with each workout, and eventually lift more weight in the process because the muscle has gotten stronger. Going to complete failure each time is not a necessity for this, as the study has shown. Even if you can get 1-2 more reps more than the last time you worked out for a given exercise, you are obviously making progress. This is more important than being obsessed with "going to failure" on each set, which in the end may cause injury and lead to a layoff in your workout time.


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