Pre-Exhaust Training involves completing an isolation exercise for a muscle group, followed by a compound movement with little to no rest in between.
During standard compound movements typically the smaller muscles will fatigue first and the larger muscles may not receive ample overload, an example would be the triceps and shoulders fatiguing before the chest during the bench press.
The Pre-Exhaust technique is a great way to create isolated fatigue in a large muscle group such as the chest using a single-joint (isolation) exercise and then follow it with a compound exercise to create more than ample overload for new strength and muscle growth.
How To Perform
To perform a Pre-Exhaust set choose an isolation or single joint exercise like the cable flye to target a specific muscle group such as the chest; perform the movement until complete failure/fatigue of the chest.
Next, move to a multi-joint compound exercise like the incline barbell bench press for the chest; this compound movement will engage other muscle groups to perform the movement whilst simultaneously fatiguing the chest further to ensure maximum muscle overload.
The purpose of Pre-Exhaust training is to overload a single muscle group by means of maximal fatigue; because of this, pre-exhaust training should not be used for every exercise in a workout.
If using Pre-Exhaust training, it is best to use this bodybuilding intensity technique at the beginning of the workout as quick ‘shock’ tactic to ensure the desired muscle group is primed to reach complete failure and maximum overload. Pre-exhaust training can be used every workout when using a sensible body part split; Pre-Exhaust training can be safely utilized consistently for 4-week hypertrophy training blocks.
There are a number of advantages to using Pre-Exhaust training in a properly planned training program. Pre-Exhaust training ensures workout intensity is extremely high by forcing the target muscle to a point of muscular failure and then pushing them through even more training volume using a compound movement.
Pre-Exhaust training is a great learning tool for developing the mind-muscle connection for stubborn body parts; using an isolation exercise at the beginning ensures complete and utter focus is given to a specific muscle group and then translating this into a compound exercise.
Pre-Exhaust training is a great technique to use for those who find heavy training cause a lot of stress to the ligaments and joints and interferes with their ability to train with intensity on a consistent basis. Isolation exercises are far less likely to cause the same trauma to joints as compound barbell movements particularly the use of cables and pin-loaded machines; in addition using an isolation exercise before a compound movement will significantly decrease the amount of weight that can be used which can assist in keeping joints healthy.
Example Workout (Chest Workout)
Exercise 1: Cable Cross-Overs
Set 1: Warm up set with light weight for 25 reps.
Set 2: First working set. Use a weight that allows you to hit failure at 20 reps.
Set 3: Second working set. Pick a weight that you would usually fail on after 12 – 15 reps of your first set. Now use this weight and get 20 reps. (Rest-pause as needed)
Sets 4-11: Working sets. Repeat Set 3 another 8 times, using the same weight, for 20 reps each set. You will fail earlier and earlier each set as your chest fatigues – this is fine, just get your spotter to help you get out those forced reps to make up the 20.
Exercise 2: Incline Dumbbell Press
Set 1: Warm up set with light weight for 15 reps.
Set 2: First working set. Use a weight that allows you to hit failure between 10-12 reps.
Set 3: Second working set. Increase weight to cause failure between 8-10 reps.
Set 4: Third working set. Increase weight to cause failure between 6-8 reps.