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Pre-Exhaustion Training – Build Mass With Better Fiber Recruitment

Utilizing different training methods not only means changing exercises or finding a new machine. Sometimes, such as with pre-exhaustion training, you can maximize muscle growth by just changing the order, sets, and repetitions. Pre-exhaustion training is an excellent, underutilized method not only helps reduce the risk of injury, but can build muscle both in the off season and during contest prep.

What Defines Pre-Exhaustion Training?

Pre-exhausting is defined by taking a single-joint isolation exercise to failure before moving to a compound movement. A quick example would be doing chest flyes and moving directly into a barbell bench press, or leg extensions before squats. More examples are listed below. By pre-exhausting before moving to a compound exercise, you will recruit more fibers during that compound exercise. Along with increased fiber recruitment, you can use less weight to achieve progressive overload – which is good for those that are in pre-contest or generally prone to injuries. Using this training might be the deciding factor if someone can say, do one of the more “risky” exercises, such as the bench press – which may have injured or strained muscles previously. Pre exhaustion is also a great way to break past lifting plateaus.

Another important consideration when performing the isolation exercise is the form. It is important to use whatever weight is necessary in order to maintain proper form, without swinging and swaying. Doing too much weight will incorporate other muscle groups and simulate a compound exercise.  Because most beginners will make gains simply from introducing resistance training, it is recommended not to incorporate too much pre-exhaustion into your training routine. Generally, machines will most often be used for the isolation part of the combination because of their ability to provide stability and isolate specific muscle groups, followed by free-weight exercises which are known to incorporate a lot more stabilizer muscles.


Examples Of Pre-Exhaustion Combinations

Leg extensions followed by Squats
Leg Extensions followed by Leg Press
Pec Fly followed by Bench Press
Lateral Dumbbell Raises followed by Shoulder Press
Triceps Push-downs followed by Close Grip Bench
Concentration curls followed by Barbell Curls
Hammer rows followed by Bent Over Rows

Even More Variety

Because pre-exhaustion is primarily used as a method of breaking past plateaus and is generally considered an advanced training technique, consider even more variation as far as your actual routine. Doing a pair of an isolation+compound followed by another pair of two different exercises, back-to-back, may provide even further overload for stubborn body parts. Also, beginning the workout with a pre-exhaustion combination vs. ending the workout with it, or intermittently combining an isolation with a compound during a session.


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