Post-failure training for more muscle growth?

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To build muscle you need to train your sets to (near) muscle failure, or to (near) the point where you can no longer do a decent rep. This is the only way to give your muscles optimal stimulation. But what about post- (or past) failure training? Will you then build even more muscle?


Post-failure training means that you continue training for a while after you have reached the point of muscle failure. After all, just because you can no longer do a decent repetition doesn’t mean you’re completely done. You can continue to stimulate your muscle in many other ways: cheat reps, forced reps (spotter required), negativesrest-pause (or myo-reps), dropsetsmechanical dropsets and partials.


Many natural bodybuilding coaches are somewhat skeptical of these intensity techniques. In fact, many believe that it is usually better not to train completely to muscle failure, but to keep a few repetitions ‘in the tank’. Let alone training to muscle failure and beyond muscle failure.

Of course, you create a great stimulus, but in return there is great fatigue. That fatigue may exceed your training capacity. In other words: an unfavorable stimulus to fatique ratio (SFR) is created.


Is post-failure training completely written off? Let’s look at a recent study that used the extended (or long length) partials technique. You do this by performing a partial repetition when the muscle is in an extended position.

In the study, two groups of untrained men performed standing calf raises twice a week for 3-4 sets to different levels of failure, namely in range of motion (ROM):

  • The men in the full ROM group ended their set when they could no longer lock their ankles at the top;
  • The extended partials group then continued with partials until they could no longer move.


After ten weeks, the post-failure partials resulted in 10% muscle growth, compared to 7% for the normal failure group. That means 43% more muscle growth.


We must make some comments here:

  • It is not clear whether this growth is due to post-failure, the partials and/or to the larger training volume (in this case the total number of repetitions). The partials beyond muscle failure generated as much as 87% more volume load. In principle, this study only says: more volume, more results;
  • Coach Menno Henselmans draws our attention to the fact that all post-failure techniques investigated so far have a poor SFR. Training past muscle failure is often accompanied by one or more days of additional recovery time;
  • Post-failure partials do not allow you to use additional weight and are performed after stimulating all the motor units of the muscle. So they may not provide as much growth as normal extended partials.


In our opinion, based on what we know from the evidence-based bodybuilding community, it is better to exercise caution with intensity techniques, such as post-failure partials. On a purely set basis, they may yield more muscle groups, but in your overall training you may be faced with an unfavorable SFR.

What exactly do we mean by ‘caution’? Well, beginners to intermediates are best off doing only regular sets: most to near muscle failure, a few sets to complete muscle failure (e.g. the last of an isolation exercise). This allows you to achieve optimal muscle growth. Post-failure techniques only cause unnecessary fatigue.

More experienced strength athletes can occasionally use intensity techniques, albeit in moderation. For example, in a muscle group that is lagging behind and that you therefore want to stimulate a little extra. But certainly not as a standard training method for all muscle groups.


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