If you are looking for a way to shock a stubborn muscle group or set the tone for your workout with a nasty pump, then you might want to try the Pre-Exhaust Method. The Pre-Exhaust Method is a tried and true technique to aid in activating the proper muscle fibers in a desired muscle group in the very beginning of a training session. The Pre-Exhaust method was one of the first advanced methods that I experimented with in my own training, and I still use it frequently to this day.
The purpose of the Pre-Exhaust method is to fatigue an individual muscle group by beginning the workout ensuring that the desired body part will fatigue first when the compound movement is trained rather than the muscles that assist in the movement. It is historically recommended that this be accomplished by using an isolation movement to begin the workout rather than the traditional compound movement (More on this later in the article). The Pre-Exhaust method ensures that the desired body part in focus will fatigue first when the compound movement is trained rather than the muscles that assist in the movement. Pre -Exhausting your chest prior to performing the Bench Press is a perfect example. When we perform the bench press other muscle groups are involved (Triceps, Deltoids and Lats), and Pre-Exhausting the chest will help to make sure that the chest fatigues first in the movement rather than the shoulders and triceps.
Pre-Exhaust training not only ensures that the desired body part fatigues first, but in my experience, it helps to pump as much blood as possible into the muscles, giving you that pumped up feeling before your workout technically even begins, which is always a nice bonus!
When and How to Use Pre-Exhaust Training:
I have found that Pre-Exhaust training is best used during hypertrophy (muscle gain) phases, at a time where your goal is training a muscle to grow, rather than training a movement for strength. Since the Pre-Exhaust method does exhaust your muscles, it is important to remember that this method should only be used once at the beginning of the workout and I personally rarely use this method before workouts that call for near maximal weights, since I like to go into these movements with my muscles completely fresh.
As I noted earlier in this article, isolation movements (chest flies, leg extensions, leg curls, lateral raises) are historically recommended for Pre-Exhaust training. While using isolation movements certainly do accomplish the goal of Pre-Exhausting the muscles, I personally have also used compound movements in my chest, back and shoulder training including Dumbbell Presses and Seated Rows/Lat Pulldowns to Pre-Exhaust my muscles and have found that this happens to work quite well. The key here is to pick a medium weight that you can control very well, and use a slower tempo with a partial range of motion to keep the tension on the desired muscle throughout the exercise.
Sample Pre-Exhaust Routines:
The following are a few sample Pre-Exhaust exercises along with a few different rep schemes that you can add into your workouts. The combinations are pretty much limitless, but here are a few to start off!
All exercises can be completed with the following rep schemes just to name a few:
4-5×15, 3-5×20, 5-7×12, 3-6×10
**Remember to choose a weight that you can control! Do not go too heavy, we want mind to muscle connection here, get a pump and prime your muscles for a great workout!
** Remember to do these routines at the BEGINNING of your workout only
Incline or Flat DB Press
Incline or Flat DB Flys
Straight Bar or Rope Standing Pulldowns
Lat Pulldown SS DB Flat Bench or DB Incline Bench Press
Bench Press SS Reverse Grip Pulldowns
Incline or Flat Bench Flies SS Seated Row
Bench Press SS Seated Row
Pullups SS Dips
Standing Lateral Raises SS Front Raises
Seated Lateral Raise SS DB Shrugs
Machine Shoulder Press
Leg Extension SS Leg Curls
Body Weight Squats
Single Leg Hip Bridge
Banded Leg Curls
Cable Bicep Curls SS Cable Triceps Ext
DB Curl SS Cable Triceps Extensions