I advocate training to failure when it’s possible to do so safely, with or without a spotter. Training to muscular failure is working your muscles to the point they are unable to lift another repetition. Usually you will fail while trying to lift the last repetition, and that’s it. It’s time to call it a day for that exercise.
The reason I’m a fan of training to failure is simple – I believe completely destroying your muscle fibres to the point they’re unable to lift anything more is going to encourage them to repair and grow more so than if you aren’t challenging them to their limits.
I have no proof of this, and it’s only a feeling, but it makes sense to me. Sometimes in this game they call bodybuilding you must follow your gut instincts and if something makes perfect sense to you, based upon experience and observation, then do it.
During large compound exercises training to failure could be dangerous, for example squatting outside of a power-rack and without a partner to spot and watch over you, is asking for trouble. Never train to failure if it will put you in inherent and immediate danger. That would be futile. Arnold may of done squats to the point of passing out and dropping the barbell behind him as he fell unconcious, but Arnold was Arnold.
Exercises I recommend not training to failure on are:
- Barbell Bench Press (Without a spotter)
- Overhead Press (without a spotter)
For most other exercises go nuts. Train to failure on:
- Bicep Curls
- Lateral Raises
- Upright Rows
- Calf Raises
- Tricep Exercises
Don’t forget, when you train to failure, your muscles require more time to recover. Give at least 48-72 hours between muscles groups worked out before hitting them again, and you should see solid gains in your program.