Pre-exhaustion training is one of the most popular ways to pump your muscles into new growth.
With pre-exhaustion, a muscle is first fatigued by a single-joint exercise, and then further exhausted by performing a multi-joint exercise involving the same muscle group. You could perform biceps curls followed by chin-ups, or lateral raises followed by behind-the-neck presses.
Pre-Exhaustion is Born
Robert Kennedy created pre-exhaustion training but it was Arthur Jones who popularized it. Jones’ most famous combo was his leg workout.
Jones believed that the limiting factor in working the legs with the squat was the strength of the lower back. He recommended pre-exhausting the quads with a set of leg presses for 20 to 30 reps and leg extensions for 20 reps, before performing squats for 10 to 15 reps – with no rest between each set!
The result was that when it came time to squat, often the weight would be half of what that individual could normally use.
Get Started With Pre-Exhaustion
Jones took pre-exhaustion to the extreme, performing two isolation exercises before the compound exercise. It’s best to start with just one pre-exhaustion exercise. For example, you could pre-exhaust the long head of the triceps with the lying triceps EZ bar extension, and immediately follow it with a multijoint exercise that involves all the heads of the triceps, such as parallel bar dips or close-grip bench presses with chains.
For the brachialis, you could perform a superset by combining standing EZ bar reverse curls with incline hammer dumbbell curls.
Strength Vs. Muscle Goals
Pre-exhaustion aims to max out muscle gains. By targeting a muscle repeatedly with varying exercises, you achieve a powerful muscle pump which has lasting hypertrophic effects because it leads to cell swelling, a stimulus of muscle fiber growth.
Bigger muscles can be trained for strength, but pre-exhaustion is not ideal for maxing out strength. One study suggests that post-exhaustion is superior to pre-exhaustion. With post-exhaustion, you perform a compound exercise followed by an isolation exercise for a muscle group you want to emphasize. If maximal strength is your primary goal, then you should use pre-exhaustion training sparingly.
If you're looking for a way to shock your muscles into greater growth, give pre-exhaustion training a try.