Should You Train Calisthenics to Failure or Not

 

You’ve probably heard that you should be doing calisthenics to failure in order to see results, but is this really true?

✊It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is when it comes to working out and getting fit. There are so many conflicting opinions out there, it’s tough to know who or what to believe. In this article, we’re here to set things straight BASED ON SCIENCE.

⚡️ Doing calisthenics to failure is optional, but not necessary for growth. There are upsides and downsides when doing so. The main upside to working out to failure is that you can break through plateaus. This is because when you work out to failure, your muscles are forced to work harder than they would if you were working out at a lower intensity or training volume. The downside to doing calisthenics to failure is that you run the risk of overtraining.

🤕 Overtraining can lead to a number of negative side effects, including decreased performance, increased fatigue, injury, and mental exhaustion leading to quitting your fitness journey.

You would want instead to train NEAR failure to maximize muscle growth and strength gains efficiently while staying safe and sustainable.

👇In this article, we will be more specific and explore whether or not working out to failure is actually beneficial for your fitness goals.

👍PROs 👎CONs
Training TO failure
  • Force muscle growth by inducing muscle damage and metabolic stress
  • Excellent for breaking plateaus
  • An effective method for limited training equipment exercises
  • The satisfying feeling of getting the “pump” 
  • Reserved for more experienced athletes
  • Applicable only for hypertrophy gains
  • Non-sustainable in the long run
  • Generates tons of physical and mental fatigue
  • Not necessary for muscle growth
  • Dangerous approach for strength development
  • Ideal for low-intensity exercises
  • Higher risk of experiencing DOMS
Training NEAR failure
  • Sustainable training approach
  • STILL effective for muscle growth
  • Safer approach
  • Best for building strength
  • Can accommodate higher intensity exercises
  • Low risk of DOMS
  • Not as satisfying in terms of feeling the “pump”

 

Mechanisms for muscle💪 growth

Before we answer the question in-depth, let’s first briefly walk through the 3 MAJOR factors to facilitate muscle growth in the context of your workout. The three mechanisms are mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage.

💥Mechanical tension

In a gym setting, this refers to the “heavy lifting” categories with lengthy rest periods. Your muscles generate high forces moving through a full range of motion.

🤜In calisthenics, we can achieve these by choosing a progression of a specific exercise that’s challenging enough for you to limit your rep number, but still, perform it with good form. So most strength-based exercises are included here such as push-ups, squats, pull-ups, dips, and such.

For example, when working through a pull-up progression, if you can easily perform 15 reps of regular pull-ups with strict form, then you might not be maximizing the mechanical tension.

If that’s the case, then moving toward the one-arm pull-up progression would be your next best option to stimulate strength development. Either go with archer pull-ups, one-arm assisted pull-up, or weighted pull-ups for absolute strength gains.

This method is similar when working with other exercises as well.

Aiming around 5-12 reps is a good indicator that you’re performing exercises that are optimal for inducing mechanical tension. 3 to 5 sets with 2 to 5 minute rest periods. 

💥Metabolic stress

We can summarize this into the “pump” that you feel when working with low weight exercises with minimal rest periods. 🤜

Maintaining muscular tension by not resting in between reps and contracting the muscles at a high rep range allows for building more metabolic stress.

In calisthenics, it’s best to perform low to moderate intensity exercises for high reps. Regressing to an easier exercise is a good example. Let’s say you’re performing normal push-ups as your strengthening exercise, then reverting to an incline push-up to get higher rep ranges in the following sets to get higher metabolic stress.

Another way is to use bodyweight “isolation exercises” such as calf raises, tricep push-ups, ring bicep curls, and ring chest flyes.

The ideal rep range is around 12 to 25+ reps (or close to failure) for 3-4 sets. Rest can last around 30 to 90 seconds. 

💥Muscle damage

🤜You can create muscle damage thanks to focusing on the eccentric AKA negative portion of an exercise. Muscle damage doesn’t always equate to the muscle soreness that you might be experiencing the next day or DOMS. But working with negatives highly relates to DOMS.

This can be implemented by performing a slightly slower negative portion of the exercise. For example, when training with the pistol squat progressions, you go around 3 to 5 seconds on your way then move up back to the starting position immediately or slightly faster than how you performed the eccentric.

⭐️Mixing them together

A variety and equal implementation of the three mixes will help you build muscle and strength even with bodyweight training alone. The key is to have a good mix of the three included in your training program as these three factors are always related to each other.

As you can see from the varying training volume and training protocol recommendations to satisfy each mechanism, there’s not just ONE-WAY to build muscle and strength.

🤔Now how does this relate to your question?

You already might notice some facts that you CAN BUILD MUSCLE AND STRENGTH without going into failure just by meeting these principles. We’ll dive deeper into these through application in the later parts of the article.

🔥What is training to failure?

👉Training to failure is a type of training where you push your muscles to the point of total exhaustion. This is a popular method done in the weight lifting approach until you can’t do any more repetitions or by doing a set number of reps and then continuing to do reps until you can’t do anymore.

👉Training to failure is an effective way to increase muscle size and strength. However, it’s important to note that this type of training should only be used occasionally, as it can lead to overtraining and injuries.

In addition, the level of intensity that you experience during training to failure can also be difficult to maintain over time.

🔎What are the upsides of training to failure?

  • 👍Pushing your muscles to failure will lead to increased muscle growth and strength.
  • 👍Training to failure recruits more muscle fibers, resulting in a higher level of muscle growth.
  • 👍Reaching the point of muscular failure will help you achieve your fitness goals faster.
  • 👍Training to failure is the key to maximizing your workout results.
  • 👍Feels satisfying to achieve the “pump” and DOMS the next day

🔎What are the downsides of training to failure?

  • 👎Training to failure can be very physically and mentally exhausting
  • 👎Dangerous for high-intensity exercises
  • 👎It can lead to overtraining and injury
  • 👎It can decrease your strength and muscle mass over time
  • 👎You run the risk of pushing your body beyond its limits and causing serious injury
  • 👎DOMS and “pump” aren’t really that necessary for muscle growth

 

Should I do calisthenics to failure for building muscle?

As long as it is done in moderation, training to failure can be a useful tool to make progress with your calisthenics workouts.💯

Research shows that training to failure is not necessary for strength and muscle gains at the beginner level. However, the same research also shows advanced resistance training athletes CAN benefit from training to failure. This doesn’t imply advanced athletes should regularly stick to this approach.

👊Training to failure for advanced athletes still carries the risk of overtraining, overfatigue, and injury if done on a regular basis. The risk just lessens but is still present.

It’s important to note that this type of training should not be done regularly by anyone. You can try to do calisthenics to failure every last workout session of the week to start, then gradually increase the frequency as you get stronger. Just be sure to listen to your body and take rest days when needed.

💥Should I train to failure for strength?😢

Training to failure plus strength training (high-intensity training) is a recipe for injury. It’s not ideal to combine these protocols as strength training demands high effort for safe execution. If you train to failure, the risk of injuring yourself massively increases.🤕

Remember that reaching failure causes your muscles to get fatigued to the point that you are no longer able to perform any reps.😢 If you’re in a high-loaded exercise, you put your muscles, and joints at risk.

For example, planche training is a high-level strength-based calisthenics skill. This exercise puts extreme pressure on your wrists, shoulders, and elbows. If you train to failure during this exercise, you can potentially damage your joints which are subjected to high demands. These two don’t mix. If you’re going to train to failure, stick to lower intensity exercises.🤛

💥Should I train to failure for skills?

When it comes to skills training, It’s a common practice that you should aim for the greatest form of the exercise and stop once your form begins to break down. This will be an indication to cease after a while.

✊If you find yourself taking too long breaks or breaking form too early in the exercise, consider lowering the intensity of the exercise.

Training to failure with calisthenics skills might lead to the development of incorrect form and bad habits. Always train with a fresh mind and body when training for skills UNLESS that skill for you is already a piece of cake.

💥Should calisthenics beginners train to failure?

When starting out with calisthenics, it’s important to focus on proper form and technique rather than pushing yourself to failure. Start with a lower weight or resistance and increase gradually as you become stronger. Remember that quality beats quantity every time – focus on doing fewer reps with perfect form rather than maxing out with sloppy reps.

In scientific literature, beginners tend to develop strength first primarily from neural adaptations rather than building strength. Only after training consistently for a few months, only hypertrophic gains become visible.

👉In general, training to failure is more appropriate for experienced athletes who are looking to break through a plateau. It becomes more difficult for more advanced athletes to develop lean muscle mass as their training experience grows.

For calisthenics beginners, it’s safer and more effective to stick with moderate intensity and focus on perfecting your technique. You can gradually increase the intensity and challenge yourself with more difficult exercises as you get stronger.

💥Is it better to train to failure?

Some research has shown that training to failure causes muscle damage due to excessive microtrauma. This can lead to muscle growth over time. However, other research has shown that training to failure is no more effective than not going to failure. 🙌

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to train to failure is up to you. If you find that it helps you make progress, then go for it. But if you’re struggling to maintain the intensity or you’re experiencing overtraining symptoms, then it’s probably time to back off.

There will be times that training to failure through calisthenics can be an option and there are times that training NEAR FAILURE is better.

💥Is training to failure necessary for muscle growth?

No, training to failure is not necessary for muscle growth. However, it can be a useful tool to help you achieve the desired results.

When you train to failure, you push your muscles to the point where they can no longer complete another repetition. This can be a great way to challenge your muscles and force them to grow larger and stronger.

💪 If you are looking to achieve maximum muscle growth, then training to failure should definitely be part of your workout routine in a periodized manner. But if you are just starting out or focused on strength workouts, then skipping this step may be more appropriate for you.

💥When should you train to failure?

If you want to do a failed set, save it for the end. It’s too difficult to train to failure on every set if you’re aiming for muscular growth.

👉If you’re looking for maximal strength gains, then training to failure isn’t necessary – in fact, it can actually be counterproductive. When you train to failure, you’re essentially doing the last rep with as much weight as you can lift, and your muscles can only handle so much stress before they fatigue and stop growing.

However, if you’re looking for muscle growth (hypertrophy), then training to failure is a must. In order to stimulate hypertrophy, your muscles need to be placed under an increasing amount of stress over time, and there’s no better way to do that than by training to failure.

🧐In general, it’s a good idea to save your failed sets for the end of your workout with your low-moderate intensity exercises. This will help you maintain the intensity throughout the entire session. However, if you’re struggling to complete all of your reps with perfect form, then it’s probably time to back off. Remember – quality over quantity!💯

💥How close to failure should I train?

Failure causes a disproportional amount of exhaustion, which can negatively impact subsequent exercises or your overall routine. We need to consider the RIR or Reps In Reserve available to you. In other words, the reps you have in your tank before you can no longer perform a good repetition. This indicates that most sets should be completed with around 2-3 reps to spare from technical failure then pursue failure at the final rest.

🎯Training to failure is a great way to challenge your muscles and force them to grow larger and stronger. However, it’s important to focus on proper form and technique when starting out with calisthenics. For beginners, it’s safer and more effective to stick with moderate intensity and focus on perfecting your technique.

💥Should I do push-ups until failure?

IT DEPENDS. Correct form is crucial when doing any type of calisthenics to failure and also considering the skill level of an individual.

🔥If you already have mastered the regular push-up progressions and want to stick to building muscle using it, then training to failure is a great option OR you can move to a harder progression towards the one-arm push-up.

Make sure you’re maintaining good form throughout the entire set and stop if you feel like your form is starting to break down. Additionally, be sure to take rest days when needed to allow your muscles time to recover.

If you’re still making some push-up mistakes or unable to perform a regular push-up, then consider using an easier progression and build the basic strength first.

💥How many pushups can I do in one set to failure?

There’s no limit to how many push-ups you can do to failure. However, be sure to maintain good form and stop if you feel like your form is breaking down. While 8-12 reps per set are the “optimal” 💪muscle-building range, we always have to consider the intensity of the exercises if you want that range to be effective.

Don’t be restricted to any rep ranges. A set to failure is a good goal provided it is done with good form even if you’re pushing 25 reps or more per set. The important part is to continue doing so to failure.

💥How many hours will your muscle recover from failure training?

Muscle repair and rebuilding tissue can take up to 24 to 48 hours to recover from a strenuous 🤒workout. This means that you should wait at least two days before training the same muscle group again. During this time, your muscles will be repairing and rebuilding themselves, which will lead to increased strength and size.

📌Final Thoughts

As someone who is interested in bodyweight training, it is important to realize when and how to train to failure. It is better for those who are just starting out to stick with moderate intensity and perfect their technique.🏆

Then, as you progress, you can begin incorporating more challenging exercises and pushing your muscles closer to failure. Just be sure to give your muscles enough time to recover between workouts. To answer your question on doing Calisthenics to failure or not, it depends on what you are trying to achieve. Failure training is the way to go if you are looking for maximal muscle gains.🏆

However, if you are mainly interested in muscular strength and skill development, avoiding failure may be better. Ultimately, it is up to you to experiment and find what works best for you.

If you’re interested in building muscle through bodyweight alone, then following a personalised and progressive approach would be the best option for you. Start your calisthenics journey the right way by beginning with a short assessment to know what your body is capable of.

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