An analysis of the perceived causes leading to task-failure in resistance-exercises

Aviv Emanuel, Isaac Isur Rozen Smukas, Israel Halperin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. While reaching task-failure in resistance-exercises is a topic that attracts scientific and applied interest, the underlying perceived reasons leading to task-failure remain underexplored. Here, we examined the reasons subjects attribute to task-failure as they performed resistance-exercises using different loads. Methods. Twenty-two resistance-trained subjects (11-females) completed one Repetition-Maximum (RM) tests in the barbell squat and bench-press. Then, in the next two counterbalanced sessions, subjects performed two sets to task-failure in both exercises, using either 70% or 83% of 1RM. Approximately 30 seconds after set-completion, subjects verbally reported the reasons they perceived to have caused them to reach task-failure. Their answers were recorded, transcribed, and thematically analyzed. The differences between the frequencies of the identified categories were then tested using a mixed logistic regression model. Results. The most commonly reported reason was muscle fatigue (54%, p < 0.001), mostly of the target muscles involved in each exercise. However, remote muscles involved to a lesser extent in each exercise were also reported. Approximately half of the remaining reasons included general fatigue (26%), pain (12%), cardiovascular strain (11%), and negative affect (10%), with the latter three reported more often in the squat (p = 0.022). Conclusions. In contrast to our expectations, task-failure was perceived to be caused by a range of limiting factors other than fatigue of the target muscles. It now remains to be established whether different perceived limiting factors of resistance-exercises lead to different adaptations, such as muscular strength and hypertrophy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9611
StatePublished - 2020


  • Perception
  • Repetition-maximum
  • Resistance-exercise
  • Task-failure


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