After all, the study at hand is by far not the first one to challenge the broscientific "wisdom" that you'd have "to fail to succeed". On the other hand, researchers like Burd et al. (2010) or Mitchell et al. (2012), for example, found that resistance exercise performed to failure elevates muscle protein synthesis independent of volume (sets × reps) or % one repetition maximum (1RM) load. Results that would have us assume that failure, not the total work, the rep numbers and what not was the major determinant of skeletal muscle hypertrophy.
To find out whether that's actually the case and whether and why the use of other training methods yield similar or inferior gains, J. A. Sampson and H. Groeller conducted a study in which they compared the effects of 4 weeks of biceps training with
- non-failure rapid shortening (RS; rapid concentric, 2 s eccentric),
- non-failure stretch-shortening (SSC; rapid concentric, rapid eccentric), and
- failure control (C, 2 s concentric, 2 s eccentric)
|Training to failure not for dieters?|
|Figure 1: There were no significant inter-group differences in favor of or against training to failure (Sampson. 2015).|
RS 4.2 [confidence interval (CI): 4.2, 4.3] and SSC 4.2 (CI: 4.2, 4.3) compared with C 6.1 (CI: 5.8, 6.4). The increases in 1RM (30.5%), MVC (13.3%), CSA (11.4%), and agonist EMGRMS (22.1%), however, did not differ between groups.
Only the activity of the antogonist, in this case the triceps brachii different with significantly higher increases in triceps activity in the SSC and the C trial, but decreased activity in the RS trial.
- Burd, Nicholas A., et al. "Low-load high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men." PloS one 5.8 (2010): e12033.
- Mitchell, Cameron J., et al. "Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men." Journal of applied physiology 113.1 (2012): 71-77.
- Sampson, J.A, and H. Groeller. "Is repetition failure critical for the development of muscle hypertrophy and strength?" Scand J Med Sci Sports (2015): Ahead of print.