Do we need to take each set close to failure when we’re training to improve explosiveness?
No pain, no gain? No.
As we get closer to failure, we get fatigued and velocity drops off. The studies consistently show that we don’t get additional improvements in power/explosiveness by continuing to “grind it out”.
Now, when the goal is hypertrophy (muscle size) we do want to push closer to failure. When it comes to strength, in certain phases (definitely not all phases) we do want to get closer to failure.
For explosion capacity (maintaining explosiveness for long durations), it is fine to push through fatigue and allowing bigger velocity drop offs. For example, let’s see how many reps we can do while maintaining 80+ percent of max velocity.
But when the goal is pure explosiveness, speed, vertical jump, etc, we want quality reps. Once velocity drops off due to fatigue, we can stop the set. This allows us to stay fresher for longer and avoids unnecessary daily workout volume that only leads to longer recovery times with no additional benefits.
Tracking velocity is great, but even if you don’t have the technology you can simply eye ball it. Most athletes can feel when fatigue starts to build and velocity starts to drop off.