Q+A: Training to Failure?

Q: Thoughts on ‘autoregulation’ methods? Avoidance of failure vs. actively seeking it?

Or the same question, differently put: The metabolic or neurological value of ‘that Last Rep’? (e.g. as opposed to, say, the value of the preceding 9, when you are doing sets of 10.) Presumably, advocates of training to failure must think that the near-failure and failure reps contain the bulk of the benefit, determine the adaptive response. As opposed to building personal tenacity.



A: Hi Greg,

I think the value of the last rep is oversold metabolically, but is vital in the athlete’s mindset. Going to failure in training is of dubious value for strength and power training, as that last hard rep can slow recovery, force you to stick with lower loads, and risk possible injury (in complex exercises). However, seeing hard efforts through in energy system work is a vital part of progress. When your plan calls for 10 pitches, part of what makes it hard is getting all ten done!

The train to failure mentality comes largely from the world of bodybuilding, which has very little to do with athletic performance. When trying to get stronger or more explosive, I’d suggest that getting into that 75-95% zone is the sweet spot, and going any harder isn’t worth it.