There are lots of great intensity techniques out there; basically ways to make your muscles work harder to ensure that you incorporate as many muscle fibers as possible during a workout. Today we are going to discuss an excellent, and yet underused technique.
Pre-exhaustion, as one would imagine, is the idea of getting the muscle tired ahead of time. But how does this relate when your overall goal in working out is to simply exhaust the muscle?
The technique is based around the idea of compound exercises versus isolation exercises. In theory, a compound exercise uses a primary muscle and auxiliary muscles to complete a lift. But generally speaking the primary muscle hardly every gives out first, the auxiliary muscles do. An example would be the bench press. This compound exercise affects the chest primarily and also the front deltoid and triceps muscles secondarily. But when you perform the lift typically it is the triceps that give out first, not the chest.
So logically it would make sense to pre-exhaust the chest muscle by using an isolation exercise such as chest flyes. Then with the chest being tired you proceed with the bench press and now the triceps are in a position to effectively help do forced reps on the chest by assisting more as the chest muscles reach exhaustion faster.
So why aren’t they used?
Honestly I think people shy away from pre-exhaustion due to pure ego. Lifting heavy weights during compound exercises makes you feel strong and powerful. As many people are mindful of how much they lift in the gym and how it appears to other people they just don’t want to ‘go backwards’ and lift less weight. There is also the theory that heavier weights make the muscle grow more.
Logically speaking it makes perfect sense to exhaust the chest muscles with flyes and then push them further than normal with the bench press. In fact of you did supersets using these two exercises (perhaps one as an incline) there is no doubt you would find yourself incredible sore the next day. As for ‘lifting heavier weight’ what does that matter when the auxiliary muscles give out before the primary muscles can ever truly reach exhaustion lifting it? People who don’t use this technique are really missing out.
You do see more advanced gym practitioners, such as bodybuilders, using techniques like this more often because they really don’t care how much they lift; the focus is all on results.
Great Pre-exhaustion Combinations
Here are some good exercises you can do together for a great pre-exhaust workout:
- Front Rows & Barbell Overhead Press
- Chest Flyes & Bench Press
- Lat Pullovers & Pulldowns
- Leg Extensions & Squats
- Leg Curls & Stiff-legged Deadlifts
- Concentration Curls & Barbell Curls
- Triceps Kickbacks & Close-grip Bench press
You do want to go easy with this technique like you would whenever adding a new technique to your training. If it works as it should there will be a lot of muscle fiber damage in that first workout as your body will be unprepared for it and that means more rest is needed for proper recovery as well as having the right nutrients in your body. Make sure you don’t overdo it in the beginning.