What is exercise pre-exhaustion and why you should try it.

Exercise pre-exhaustion is a technique used to activate more muscular fibres and ultimately build more muscle. It’s a training method, most commonly used by bodybuilders, to ensure they reach complete muscular exhaustion and tear the most fibres. So here’s how the pre-exhaustion technique works and how you can integrate it into your plan.

How does pre-exhaustion work?

Firstly you must begin with an isolation exercise. This is an exercise that focuses primarily on the muscle group you want to target, with minimal involvement of other groups.

Let’s take the Chest as an example. The Chest Fly is an example of an isolation exercise, as the arm remains locked, the only movement is rotation from the shoulder joint. This movement means the Chest is the only muscle group working its range of motion, from full stretch to contraction. There is very little contribution from the surrounding muscle groups, notably the Triceps.

Once you have completed pre-exhaustion, and the isolation exercises have been performed the target muscle group will be suitably fatigued. Then you move onto compound exercises, compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups and joints. In the example of Chest, you would then perform your pressing exercises. These can include, Chest Press, Dips, Press ups, Bench Press etc. These exercises will bring in your Triceps to assist with pressing, but still involve a lot of your Chest fibres.

Why should I try pre-exhaustion?

The limiting factor in exercises are usually the assisting muscle groups, rather than the target muscle group. For Chest, it will be your Triceps that fail before your Chest does. Similarly with Back exercises, it will be the Biceps and Forearms that give out long before the Back is tired. By using the pre-exhaustion method you can minimise this from happening, and maximise the focus on the target muscle group. In the long run this means you will get better results on the muscles you want to focus on. This is an especially beneficial technique for bringing up lagging body parts, or muscles that are genetically smaller.

How do I program pre-exhaustion into my training?

Simply start with the isolation exercises, which involve as little other muscle groups as possible. Then simply move onto your main compound exercises.

Chest, start with your Chest Flys first before moving onto pressing exercises.

Back, begin with a Straight Arm Lat Push Down or Straight Arm Row, then move to rows and pulling moves.

Legs, start your workout with Leg Extensions, then move onto Squats and Leg Presses.

Additional Tips

You can also integrate pre-exhaustion supersets. A superset is where you perform one exercise straight after another. You could do a set of Chest Flys, then go straight into Chest Press with no rest. This will be extremely tough, but fully fatigue the Chest in a very short space of time.

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