Sets to Failure?

Most posts, training schedules etc. simply describe the number of sets and number of reps ie. 3x5. What is not shown is the whether the sets are to failure, which makes a big difference in terms of CNS recovery. If the last rep of a set is close to failure or even failed then the rest period before attempting a session like this is extended.

The way I see it is that you can train in 2 different ways (obviously variations allowed):

the same muscle groups twice a week at 1-2 reps short of failure, or

perform 1 true RM session per week were no more reps could be fully completed after the last rep, and then 1-2 light-moderate sessions with a few reps to spare, just for maintainance.

NB. In reality either programme may need to be performed over a 10 day cycle depending on CNS recovery.

How does everyone else structure their training so as ensure CNS recovery before their next heavy session?

This is covered nicely in this week’s

Thanks bohersch, I found the info in They are really stating that if you want to be able to train more frequently do not go to failure. This is fine when muscle growth (SR and/or sarcomere) along with neural development is the desired result, but what about when an athlete is trying to hit a strength peak and wants that extra neural input which they may get by going to failure.

Power/oly lifters may have a peaking period of upto 12 weeks were they hit failure or very close once a week and then have 2 light-moderate sessions also in that week ie heavy-light-moderate programme.

Sprinters may not want to use such a lengthy full RM (rep max) peak period due to other high CNS activity ie. track, but a 3-4 week period may help.

Just like to know if anyone does go to failure at any period.


Going to failure in anything is bad news, Charlie covered this topic in the old forum…

Old faithful is still running (for now) if you’re interested you can browse it here:



As a sprinter, it seems to me that you should focus on maximally taxing your CNS via sprinting and leave the weightlifting to increasing your overall physical capacity. There have been no studies to suggest that lifting to failure is more productive than lifting short of failure (as a matter of fact I think it would be easier to show the opposite!) Also, even in looking at olympic weightlifters, they by and large train well within themselves and save any attempts at a level that is near failure for the competitions!


I can’t remember where I saw it but it was a list of commonalities among the strongest powerlifters and weightlifters in the world. The most common theme with these strength athletes was that they all “lifted within themselves”. In Artie Drechsler’s excellent book THE WEIGHTLIFTING ENCYCLOPEDIA on page 160 when talking about Paul Anderson’s training program (those who have not heard of Paul Anderson…he was literally and figuratively a GIANT in the world of strength) it is stated “Those who saw Paul train always reported that he appeared to be lifting within himself.” Paul was quite athletic as well even though being very large at a height of 5’9’’ and a bodyweight ranging from 340 lbs. to 375 lbs… According to Dale Harder’s book STRENGTH AND SPEED RATINGS Paul was capable of performing a standing long jump of over 10 feet and a standing vertical jump of 32 inches. Paul is reported to have unofficially squatted 1230 lbs. but officially 1206 lbs. in 1957.

If these theorists think failure is a good thing, then they’d be well pleased with the mark they’d get from me on their papers.

:clap: Charlie Francis - fast becoming the king of the one-liners. (apologies to Bart Cummings)

I wouldn’t do weights to failure- but depletion push-ups CAN be done once a week for several weeks- usually on Sat, after all weights and before a day off.

I think it’s a means of getting through as much fibre as possible, approaching it from another direction. The protocol is max no, 90sec break, max no, 90sec break, max no- total 3 sets. Mark did the highest numbers of anyone- about 130, 50, 30 as I recall (usually the second number represents the biggest drop if the athlete’s putting out.)


Are the push ups done at a certain tempo, or is it just a matter of going as quick as you can, in order to get the most amounts of reps in??

Just get em done.

Forgot to mention, I’d describe this work as on the high end of the low intensity spectrum with a high degree of safety. You can’t say that about weights to failure.

Forgot to mention, I’d describe this work as on the high end of the low intensity spectrum with a high degree of safety. You can’t say that about weights to failure.