Lifting Weights to Failure: Benefits and Risks

Lifting Weights to Failure: Benefits and Risks

Lifting Weights to Failure: Benefits and Risks

  • Training to failure means repeating a move over and over until you physically can’t do another one.
  • It can be effective for advanced lifters to add strength and size, as long as they recover properly.
  • Given the potential risk of injury, lifting to failure should not be used by beginner lifters.

Lifting weights to failure is a strength training technique and, unlike the name suggests, has nothing to do with failing anything.

While this method of strength training may help some people build muscle faster, it’s not for everyone.

Since lifting in this manner involves doing a continuous number of reps until you are physically unable to complete another with a sound form, it’s not really suitable for beginners.

“Training to failure is technically difficult,” says Seamus Sullivan, certified strength specialist and online performance coach.

For more insight, I spoke to Sullivan and another certified strength trainer about the benefits of lifting to failure, who should use the technique, and how it can help experienced lifters achieve their strength goals.

Is it safe to lift to failure?

Whether or not it’s safe depends on your weight lifting experience.

“The general population doesn’t need to train to failure,” Sullivan says.

He adds that it should be reserved for advanced lifters who have perfected their movement patterns and are in tune with their body and its various signs of fatigue.

An example of lifting to failure would be to first perform three sets of eight reps of dumbbell curls followed by one set at the same weight for maximum reps until you can no longer do it. do physically.

Although researchers have found that it can help build strength, even advanced lifters shouldn’t do it. all exercises until failure. They should focus only on isolation exercises, Sullivan says.

Isolation exercises are those that involve the use of only one joint and one major muscle (i.e. your elbow, knee, shoulder, or ankle).

For example, leg curls involve moving at the knee to target the quad while bicep curls involve moving at the elbow to work the biceps. Performing isolation exercises to failure is much safer and easier than compound exercises, says Sullivan

Compound exercises involve multiple joints and major muscle groups working together simultaneously. Examples include the clean and jerk and the squat.

“When you do bicep curls, for example, you just let go of the dumbbells and step away from them.

Training compound movements to failure can be dangerous because compound movements are harder to bail out, even for advanced lifters,” Sullivan says. “If someone squats with dumbbells, they could hurt themselves if they don’t know how to jump under the bar. dumbbell and get out of the way.”

What are the benefits?

When done correctly and safely, training to failure is an effective way to build muscle mass and strength.

Sullivan says that to get stronger, you have to really challenge your muscle fibers. This produces micro tears in these muscle fibers which, when repaired, become stronger and bigger than they were before.

By forcing your muscles to work until they can’t, training to failure results in more muscle fiber breakdown than not training to failure, explains Sullivan.

One review further proves this point, finding enough evidence to suggest that in highly trained individuals, lifting to failure led to greater strength gains than without failure.

However, the study also concludes that training to failure is not more effective in improving strength or muscle mass in untrained people, which supports Sullivan’s recommendation that beginner lifters avoid it.

It should also be noted that lifting to failure is a certain type of strength training. As such, it provides the health benefits associated with bodybuilding.

“Lifting weights helps build muscle mass, which helps protect against sports injuries, helps promote bone health, and helps you maintain good posture,” says Rachel Straub, certified strength specialist and co- author of Weight Training Without Injury.

What are its disadvantages?

Lifting to failure “puts you at increased risk of injury,” says Straub.

For example, if you end up losing weight, you could break a toe, or if your form isn’t perfect, you could tear ligaments or muscles, Sullivan says.

It may also increase your risk of overtraining syndrome, Straub says. “Training to failure leads to greater muscle damage and fatigue, requiring more time to recover between exercise sessions.”

Insider’s Takeaways

If you’re an experienced lifter, training to failure can be an effective way for you to gain even more strength or size, as long as you’re confident you can maintain good form.

It’s also important that anyone who lifts to failure also prioritizes muscle repair and recovery after the workout is over.

However, if you’re new to bodybuilding, your health and fitness goals would be best served by simply hitting the weight room consistently and using only weights and rep ranges that you can handle with perfect form. If you are unsure of your form, consult a personal trainer.

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