Why Striving for Failure with Your Workouts Will Make You Better


A lot of people go to the gym, do some cardio, lift weights, do a little stretching and then head home. That is a standard session for a lot of individuals. That routine continues each time we decide to go to the gym and it’s basically “rinse and repeat”. Then we expect our physique to dramatically change even though our training never does. If it hasn’t changed in the months or years prior, why should it now?

Do The Same Thing, Get The Same Results
Most people are taught to train this way in all those glossy fitness magazines where they recommend you to perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions of some “Super Move” that will give you a perfect set of washboard abs, huge legs, jacked arms or a massive chest in no time at all. How do the publishers of these magazines know your specific size, strength levels, training experience or overall fitness levels? Why is there always a “magic number” of sets or reps to adhere to? The magazine promises the routine will work, so you try it out and it does not work. Then you go out and buy a different magazine the next month and try the latest “thing” to help you achieve your dream physique and, yet again, it doesn’t work.

These glossy fitness magazines display the shredded and muscular bodies of all the fit, glowing, healthy and beautiful people who grace the pages. Let me tell you something right now. You will not get the physique you want by training like this, period! It is essential that you clearly understand this in order to succeed.


How To Make Real Changes To Reach Success
The thing you need to do is push yourself beyond the level that you currently train at. You need to make your body work harder than it ever has before and push beyond what you believe your limits are. Trust me, I guarantee you are working well within yourself right now if you haven’t made any physique changes recently. You would be amazed at how much more you can do and how much more you can push yourself beyond your current perceived limits. You need to get comfortable being uncomfortable!

To allow yourself a chance to achieve maximum success in changing your physique, it is essential that you strive to fail in the gym, otherwise you will find it nearly impossible to see the results you truly desire. Failure is the key to success! This is something many of my clients find strange, but let me explain a little further.

The reason why most people fail in reaching their goals to improve their physique and overall fitness is by avoiding to push themselves enough and they end up taking the easier option. This is simple human nature. If I asked you to choose a kettlebell to train with and had a dozen different kettlebells sitting on the ground, you would most likely choose the one somewhere in the middle. People hire personal trainers to push them past their comfort zones and that is the reason why trainers get people results that they cannot, or do not, get on their own.


I see people train in the gym all the time and I can tell that they are coasting along and working well within themselves. I know this because I have done it myself so I can spot those people very quickly. A lot of people have the mindset that if training is easy (or becomes easier) then they are getting more fit. This is a major mistake. I have had clients tell me about a fitness class they have attended and they have been embarrassed because they are huffing and puffing and clearly exhausted by the end of the session and then they see other people walk by who look as though they have hardly broken a sweat. They aspire to be like these people because they believe those people are fit. The important thing to remember is that they may be “fit” right now, but they will not be getting any better and will not be improving if they remain where they are. Each person needs to push themselves beyond their own limits to keep improving.

striving-for-failure-workouts-4I try to make it clear to my clients that if they were to train with me, the two of us together, then I could probably train at about 70-80% of my capacity compared to my clients training at 100% and I will still be faster, get more reps in and lift heavier weights. To anyone watching us train together, they might think I’m way better and more fit. However, only one of us would be improving. My client would be getting better and they would be improving. They would be getting close to their goals as they are working close to their maximum. They are pushing themselves to failure, getting every last lift, push, pull, lunge and squat into their session. This type of training would get real results and they would see themselves improving each session. A few sessions later, they would be getting one more repetition in, lifting a little bit heavier weights and feeling stronger instead of feeling spent midway through the workout. Whereas, I would be lifting the same weights and doing the same reps. Basically, I would be where I was weeks earlier, and at best, simply maintaining my current fitness levels.

Yes, I would look like I had more gas left in the tank at the end of the session than my client, but only because I would have been coasting throughout the session, working well within myself and not pushing myself beyond my own limits. Only one of us would be transforming their physiques and only one of us would see their fitness levels improve, and that person would be my client since they pushed themselves past their comfort level.

Always Strive To Fail With Your Workouts
You should always be striving to fail when you’re training. For example, once you can lift a certain weight comfortably then you need to push it to the next level. This doesn’t mean going way up in weight, either. Add a small amount of weight to the bar or machine on your next workout and try to perform the same number of repetitions. Or, you can try getting 1-2 more reps with the same amount of weight on your next workout. The key is that you make sure to keep practicing to build strength and power.


If I train with one of my clients and we both workout at our maximum effort, this will leave us both equally exhausted at the end of the session because we have both given 100%, irrespective of what our true “100%” is. If we do this, we will both be improving, no matter where our starting point is. So, it is critical that you do not coast through a training session and always keep pushing yourself. Doing the same thing will only get you the same results. Making sure you fail is an important step to success.

I will leave you with the words of the great basketball player Michael Jordan:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

If failure is good enough for Michael Jordan then it should be good enough for the rest of us!

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About Author

Martin Hutton

I am a body transformation coach, author and fitness writer. I work with people who want to become the leanest, healthiest, fittest and most confident version of themselves. My clients are made up of real people and not people who want the perfect body or want to look like a bodybuilder. I work with people who want to lose excess weight, build lean muscle and regain their confidence so they can feel great. See my profile page for more information!

1 Comment

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    Excellent article! I read it with great interest and enthusiasm first thing in my office today with my morning tea. ShapeFit.com is providing us with excellent advice which goes a long way to improving our health and physiques. I have picked up the phrase from this article “to build strength and power” and I will try to focus on going to failure in the gym. As I had mentioned earlier on ShapeFit, in the recent past I had a shoulder injury (left side), which has since been greatly improved after following your advice. I continued to go to the gym and continued my workout routine. Now, I feel much better. I will be sure to follow the recommendations in this article. Thanks ShapeFit!

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