Effect of resistance training to muscle failure vs non-failure on strength, hypertrophy and muscle architecture in trained individuals

Biol Sport. 2020 Dec;37(4):333-341. doi: 10.5114/biolsport.2020.96317. Epub 2020 Jul 5.


The aim of this study was to compare the effects of resistance training to muscle failure (RT-F) and non-failure (RT-NF) on muscle mass, strength and activation of trained individuals. We also compared the effects of these protocols on muscle architecture parameters. A within-subjects design was used in which 14 participants had one leg randomly assigned to RT-F and the other to RT-NF. Each leg was trained 2 days per week for 10 weeks. Vastus lateralis (VL) muscle cross-sectional area (CSA), pennation angle (PA), fascicle length (FL) and 1-repetition maximum (1-RM) were assessed at baseline (Pre) and after 20 sessions (Post). The electromyographic signal (EMG) was assessed after the training period. RT-F and RT-NF protocols showed significant and similar increases in CSA (RT-F: 13.5% and RT-NF: 18.1%; P < 0.0001), PA (RT-F: 13.7% and RT-NF: 14.4%; P < 0.0001) and FL (RT-F: 11.8% and RT-NF: 8.6%; P < 0.0001). All protocols showed significant and similar increases in leg press (RT-F: 22.3% and RT-NF: 26.7%; P < 0.0001) and leg extension (RT-F: 33.3%, P < 0.0001 and RT-NF: 33.7%; P < 0.0001) 1-RM loads. No significant differences in EMG amplitude were detected between protocols (P > 0.05). In conclusion, RT-F and RT-NF are similarly effective in promoting increases in muscle mass, PA, FL, strength and activation.

Keywords: Electromyography; Fascicle length; Muscle fatigue; Muscle mass; Pennation angle.