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Muscle Growth: Going to Failure vs Fatiguing the Muscle

Kyle Grosshanten

Fitness coach Kyle Grosshanten displaying his muscles

What is the best way to promote muscle growth?

What do you think is more important for muscle growth: going to failure or fatiguing the muscle?

We always hear the expressions "Go to failure" and "Make sure you totally fatigue the muscle." Some people claim that failure and fatigue are the same thing while others state they are quite different. Let us settle this common question once and for all!

Yes, going to failure is going to be more crucial for overall muscle growth, but surprisingly fatiguing the muscle is a close second!  In other words, you need both if you want to maximize your gains.

If you "go to failure," it means you cannot get another repetition during a given set. If you "totally fatigue a muscle," it means the muscle will no longer fire. The two are similar in the sense that they both imply having reached a limit, but they are different limits. Failure is functional; fatigue is physiological. Failure is biomechanical; fatigue is biochemical. Failure has more to do with what's outside your body, whereas fatigue has more to do with what's inside your body.

Most importantly, going to failure does not mean you have totally fatigued the muscle you are working. It only means that the sum of the strengths of all of the multiple biomechanical systems, muscles and leverages involved in performing that movement has weakened to the point where it can no longer lift the weight. It does not necessarily mean that any of those individual muscles has been totally fatigued.

So the answer is: they are equally important and you need to implement both in your routine if you want to see growth!

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