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The Effect of Resistance Training Proximity to Failure on Muscular Adaptations and Longitudinal Fatigue in Trained Men


  • Zac Robinson Florida Atlantic University
  • Christian T. Macarilla
  • Matthew C. Juber
  • Rebecca M. Cerminaro
  • Brian Benitez
  • Joshua C. Pelland
  • Jacob F. Remmert
  • Thomas A. John
  • Seth R. Hinson
  • Shawn Dinh
  • Ethan Elkins
  • Laura C. Canteri
  • Caitlyn M. Meehan
  • Eric R. Helms
  • Michael C. Zourdos



Resistance Training, Proximity to Failure, Muscular Adaptations, Longitudinal Fatigue


Purpose: This study examined the effect of proximity to failure on hypertrophy, strength, and fatigue. We hypothesized strength gains would be superior in non-failure groups compared to those that include sets to momentary failure, while hypertrophy would be similar in all groups. Methods: 38 men were randomized into four groups (4–6 rating of perceived exertion-RPE per set, 7–9 RPE per set, 7–9+ RPE [last set taken to momentary failure], and 10 RPE per set) and completed an eight-week program. Back squat and bench press strength, muscle thickness, subjective fatigue, muscle soreness, and biomarkers (creatine kinase-CK and lactate dehydrogenase-LDH) were assessed. Results: Bench Press strength gains were comparable between the 4–6 RPE (9.05 kg [95% CI: 6.36, 11.76]) and 7–9 RPE (9.72 kg [95% CI: 7.03, 12.42]) groups, while outcomes in the 7–9+ (5.07 kg [95% CI: 2.05, 8.1]) and 10 RPE (0.71 kg [95% CI: -4.51, 5.54]) groups were slightly inferior. Squat strength gains were comparable between 4–6 RPE (13.79 kg [95% CI: 7.54, 19.92]) and 7–9 RPE (18.05 kg [95% CI: 12.28, 23.99]) groups, but data for 7–9+ RPE and 10 RPE are difficult to interpret due to poor feasibility of the protocols. For muscle hypertrophy, our data do not provide strong conclusions as to the effects of proximity to failure due to the large variability observed. The indices of fatigue were largely comparable between groups, without strong evidence of the repeated bout effect. Conclusion: These data suggest strength outcomes are comparable when taking sets to either a self-reported 4–6 RPE or 7–9 RPE, while training that includes sets to momentary failure may result in slightly inferior outcomes (i.e., 7–9+ and 10 RPE). However, the influence of proximity to failure on hypertrophy remains unclear and our data did not reveal clear differences between groups in any measure of fatigue.


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