Do Pre-exhaustion Techniques Work? - AnabolicMinds.com
    • Do Pre-exhaustion Techniques Work?



      By Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES | ProSource

      Performing Isolation Movements Prior to Compound Lifts Maximizes Mass Gains: Fact or Fiction?

      Before we start, let's agree to agree: Compound movements are the nucleus of any legitimate size or strength building program. This is what science and experience tell us.

      Who objects?

      People who want a short cut, mostly. The rest of us know that, when it comes to resistance training, the path of least resistance is usually the path of least results.

      Heavy compound movements are the priority. So, approach them mentally and physically fresh.

      Heavy or Light Weights

      No less an authority than 8-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates has stated that top strength athletes in heavyweight classes have more muscle mass than pro bodybuilders. This statement does NOT include -- drum roll, please -- eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman. Coleman is a bodybuilder who was also one of the strongest men in the world. It's not a coincidence that no one has ever come close to the level of Ronnie Coleman before or after his reign as eight-time Mr. Olympia.
      Bottom line, there is a direct correlation between strength and muscle size. The line is rarely blurred; the exceptions are the very rare genetic freaks and guys loaded up with obscene amounts of drugs.

      The Myth Starts in the Lab

      Poorly designed studies perpetuate myths.

      One study by McMaster University of Canada showed no difference between heavy and light loads for muscle hypertrophy. The study basically showed, when training to failure, light weights increase muscle size as much as heavy weights. Scientists compared the effects of workouts ranging from 30% of a 1RM to 80% of a 1RM.

      Let's scrutinize the weaknesses in the study. ¨The subjects had no formal weightlifting experience and had no regular lifting activity over the prior year. In other words, when it came to heavy pig iron, they were virgins. In textbooks dating back decades, it has been established that beginners have similar neurological adaptations to weight training with light weights and heavy weights. Hypertrophy usually isn't even a major factor for three months into weight training. This study was performed for only 10 weeks. In essence, regardless of the weight training system, method, or principles adhered to, the results would be the same.

      Get Super Strong and Become a Pro?

      Straight limit strength training is not a one-way ticket to win the Olympia. But there is clearly a relationship between muscle size and strength. Limit strength is your base and must continually be increased to maximize muscularity. More limit strength even equates to better performance on "pump" exercises. For example, a 400-pound bench presser will do more on the pec deck than a 200-pound bencher. Furthermore, he will use a hell of a lot more weight on high-rep pressing sets.

      What about Pre-Exhaust Training?

      Logically, pre-exhaust training would not be the best choice for getting big!

      Let's turn to our brothers in the lab and see what science has to say.

      First, let's define our terms. "Pre-Exhaust Training" consists of using a single-joint "isolation" movement to failure before performing a heavier multi-joint "compound" movement. A practical example would be leg extensions before front squats (for the quadriceps) or cable flyes before the bench press (for the chest).

      This technique was popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Pumping Iron. If you watched it, you'll remember Arnold performing leg extensions before squats. The idea behind pre-exhaustion training can be summed up thusly: when you fatigue the prime mover muscle with an isolation exercise prior to a heavier compound movement, you will lead to greater muscle fiber recruitment because muscular fatigue will set in before neurological fatigue.

      Compound movements require a far greater degree of neuromuscular activity than single joint movements do. Some experts theorize that you'll get the best of both worlds by inserting pre-exhaustion training in your repertoire, as you'll recruit more muscle fibers, which will ultimately lead to much greater muscle growth.

      In addition, some prominent coaches and trainers believe pre-exhaustion training is friendlier on the joints. The idea is, as muscular fatigue sets in, prior to training heavy compound movements, these movements can now be trained using lighter loads, yet still yield hypertrophic benefits.

      Great in theory, but false in real-world application!

      Science Speaks

      One 2003 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research conducted on 17 men showed the effect of pre-exhaustion training on lower-extremity muscle activation during the leg press. Prior to performing the leg press exercise, subjects performed a 10-repetition maximum in the leg extension, followed by a 10-repetition maximum in the leg press.

      Muscle activation was measured using EMG (electrical activity of the muscle), which showed that activity of the quadriceps, or target muscle, was significantly less when subjects were pre-exhausted. The measurement of the muscle-building effect of an exercise requires more than an EMG reading, but the subjects were able to complete more repetitions and use more weight on the leg press when not in a pre-exhausted state.

      The result? The conclusion of this study counter-indicated what many bodybuilders had come to believe. Pre-exhaustion training actually had a disadvantageous effect on performance because of decreased muscular activity and reduced strength when performing core lifts, which after all, are the core of our training.

      A 2007 study in Brazil titled "Effects of exercise order on upper-body muscle activation and exercise performance," produced the same conclusion. The study, which also utilized EMG, involved performing repetitions on the machine pec deck, prior to the bench press in a pre-exhaust style.

      The study showed that the muscles of the chest were not more efficiently recruited as EMG signals confirmed. The only muscle that had a higher EMG during the bench press was the triceps, and this was simply because the chest was fatigued and motor units from the pectoralis region could not be as effectively recruited. This study concluded that if you want to get better at a particular exercise, perform it first in the training session.

      Pre-exhaustion training will not lead to greater muscle fiber recruitment or greater joint safety for that matter. This is due to the fact that muscles which are normally used as prime movers during a compound movement are fatigued, which alters the motor pattern of the compound movement, resulting in less efficient and even unsafe technical execution of compound lifting movements.

      Final Thoughts

      Next time someone preaches the gospel of pre-exhaust training for getting big and strong, tell them to take their "bro's science" to a more gullible audience.

      Source: http://www.prosource.net/content/art...ally-work.aspx
      Comments 7 Comments
      1. Oscar's Avatar
        Oscar -
        I sometimes use an isolation lift first not so much to pre exhaust anything, but more to get some blood into the area and warm my joints up
      1. suheaven's Avatar
        suheaven -
        I agree 100% with the author.. I think the 2nd to last paragraph makes the strongest argument for why its a waste of time with pre-exhausting....
        "Pre-exhaustion training will not lead to greater muscle fiber recruitment or greater joint safety for that matter. This is due to the fact that muscles which are normally used as prime movers during a compound movement are fatigued, which alters the motor pattern of the compound movement, resulting in less efficient and even unsafe technical execution of compound lifting movements."
      1. fueledpassion's Avatar
        fueledpassion -
        First of all, Dorian Yates won 6, not 8, Olympia titles. The simplest information still the hardest to get right, it seems.

        Secondly, "Prior to performing the leg press exercise, subjects performed a 10-repetition maximum in the leg extension, followed by a 10-repetition maximum in the leg press."

        ^^^ This is NOT a pre-exhausting workout by any standard, especially by a man who won 7 Olympia titles. The key to pre-exhausting is EXHAUSTING the muscle. The goal here is to tire the quad severely the way we see Kris Gethin do it - which is 3 giant sets of 100 reps. Afterwards, you will recruit other muscles to help with the work because the quad can't do it alone. It recruits heavily on the hams and glutes, which is the point of pre-exhausting a particular muscle (quads) before moving to compound movements. You don't pre-exhaust the quads to later use the quads in the following compound lift. Since quads are the dominant muscle used in presses and squats, we aim to tire them out to help use other surrounding muscles for the big lift. This helps the trainer learn how to target other muscles during a lift - teaches them how to "feel" the other muscles being used, rather than grunting and pushing.

        Same technique would be used on bench press. Do a 3 trisets of 60+ reps each on chest using a variations of DB flyes, pec deck and wide-grip pushups to exhaust the muscle. Then move to close-grip bench press and utilize all of the tricep in the lift, in a full ROM. Pre-exhaust is never intended to help the primary mover, but to help use the secondary movers which the study above actually supports with tested results.

        Thirdly, high repetitions in squats is FAR, FAR superior to low reps, heavy weight when it comes to building behemoth thighs. I had to learn this the hard way and unfortunately for the powerlifters in my gym - they haven't learned it yet. They keep training in the 1-6 rep range and they keep getting stronger but no added mass to their frame. High volume, moderate weight taken to high-intensity with high reps is the way to get massive legs. This also happens to be true for triceps.

        And per the quote from the guy above saying

        "This is due to the fact that muscles which are normally used as prime movers during a compound movement are fatigued, which alters the motor pattern of the compound movement, resulting in less efficient and even unsafe technical execution of compound lifting movements."

        If you are pre-exhausting your muscle, you wouldn't be lifting heavy in the first place. At least not heavy enough to be concerned of any serious injuries. Besides, that statement supports the idea of targeting secondary muscles during a compound lift, which is the purpose of pre-exhaustion, IMO. Lifting in the 40-65% range is plenty to get huge if the reps are high enough. These techniques came from bodybuilders --> so use them in bodybuilding routines, not powerlifting routines.
      1. TKWW's Avatar
        TKWW -
        I am amazed at what is professed to be science. Only in the world of exercise enthusiasts is science bastardized for non-financial exploitation. In others areas of scientific exploitation, at the very least there is the financial incentive to bastardize. In the worlds of athletic training, personal training, bodybuilding, etc. the amount of folklore and bastardizing never ceases to amuse. Folks, there is no holy grail that you can choose to make you a Mr. O contender. Though this info does not sell supplements, the facts are that many of the limitations and advantages to physical undertakings are inherited. While almost everyone can improve, the best will be the best and the alterations in body composition largely occurs in spite of the selected exercise methodology chosen.

        Regarding pre-exaustion, Arthur Jones' own work, the originator of the method, both confirmed and contradicted this methodology. Jones' later research (Med-Ex)confirmed that there were those that responded better to one routine or another. There were those that barely responded to any routine. There were those that responded to any routine. The nonsense about the "Core' exercises (squats, bench press, etc.) programs is from the 50's and has never been proven in a well designed study. Though I advocate large muscle group exercise (as well as isolation exercise), I have assisted experienced competitive trainees with isolation exercises when compound movements were not possible due to an injury. The amount of muscle mass these subjects acquired when isolation only work was performed did not diminish the acquisition of muscle mass, which competitive bodybuilders would track with lean body mass assesments that compared prior to current pre-contest preparations. The EMG work quoted on pre-exhaust (some of which I performed) does not prove the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the pre-exhaust method. There is no dispute that the compound movement will show decreased recruitment following an isolation movement. A fatigued muscle will present decreased recruitment, which is the whole idea of pre-exhaust. The macho aggrandizing that pre-exhaust advocates are afraid of heavy weights is equally without merit. Heavy weights are employed in the isolation movement, which pre-fatigues the compound major joint movement, which then requires less weight. Suggesting Three Giant Sets of 100 reps is 1950's-60s manure! As a trainee from that time period, which was prior to formal education in exercise and medical sciences (including physiology, kinesiology, endocrinology, neurology) I also believed that is was the system, not the man, which is what these tales portend. The statement, "Pre-exhaust is never intended to help the primary mover, but to help use the secondary movers which the study above actually supports with tested results," is also not accurate. For example, the squat is a compound movement, and the synergistic neuromotor contractions of knee extensors (quadriceps) knee flexors (Hamstrings) hip extensors (gluteus) are required for execution The isolation movement of either the knee extensors or flexors is the isolation primary mover, and the compound motion of the squat further fatigued the pre-fatigued primary mover knee extensors.

        The majority of maxim physical performance accomplishments in bodybuilding, power lifting, athletic endeavors, etc. are predetermined. With practice we gain efficiency and athletic performance increases. However, accomplished swimmers are not built like swimmers because they swim. Swimmers are built like swimmers because they were born, long, lean, with excellent ROM of the gleno humeral joint, and that is why the competitors look alike at a swim meet. Don't believe it? Think Ronnie Colemen could have competed in the 200 meter butterfly and made it to the Olympics? Regardless of the routine that Coleman would perform, he will never stand out as a swimmer. Though he will improve his swimming ability, he will never be a world class swimmer. Conversely, you will never se Michael Phelps standing next to Coleman on stage either.

        Bodybuilding, the martial arts, playing the piano, whatever you choose; enjoy the trip more and debate less. Their are friendships to be made, things to learn, and improvements to had as the result of constant pursuit of your individual level of perfection. The best that you are may never bring you recognition, fame, or fortune. But attaining your individual best is a source of happiness and self satisfaction that can enrich your life if you allow yourself the opportunity. For the majority, the only person to whom you should compare yourself is to your former self. Are you better than you were last year, last month, last week, yesterday? Did you improve in any way, not the least of which is your understanding of yourself? If you have, you are successful regardless of the competition. As long as you allow others to define you, happiness will always be a goal, not an accomplishment.

        Sincerely,
        TKWW


        Originally Posted by fueledpassion View Post
        First of all, Dorian Yates won 6, not 8, Olympia titles. The simplest information still the hardest to get right, it seems.

        Secondly, "Prior to performing the leg press exercise, subjects performed a 10-repetition maximum in the leg extension, followed by a 10-repetition maximum in the leg press."

        ^^^ This is NOT a pre-exhausting workout by any standard, especially by a man who won 7 Olympia titles. The key to pre-exhausting is EXHAUSTING the muscle. The goal here is to tire the quad severely the way we see Kris Gethin do it - which is 3 giant sets of 100 reps. Afterwards, you will recruit other muscles to help with the work because the quad can't do it alone. It recruits heavily on the hams and glutes, which is the point of pre-exhausting a particular muscle (quads) before moving to compound movements. You don't pre-exhaust the quads to later use the quads in the following compound lift. Since quads are the dominant muscle used in presses and squats, we aim to tire them out to help use other surrounding muscles for the big lift. This helps the trainer learn how to target other muscles during a lift - teaches them how to "feel" the other muscles being used, rather than grunting and pushing.

        Same technique would be used on bench press. Do a 3 trisets of 60+ reps each on chest using a variations of DB flyes, pec deck and wide-grip pushups to exhaust the muscle. Then move to close-grip bench press and utilize all of the tricep in the lift, in a full ROM. Pre-exhaust is never intended to help the primary mover, but to help use the secondary movers which the study above actually supports with tested results.

        Thirdly, high repetitions in squats is FAR, FAR superior to low reps, heavy weight when it comes to building behemoth thighs. I had to learn this the hard way and unfortunately for the powerlifters in my gym - they haven't learned it yet. They keep training in the 1-6 rep range and they keep getting stronger but no added mass to their frame. High volume, moderate weight taken to high-intensity with high reps is the way to get massive legs. This also happens to be true for triceps.

        And per the quote from the guy above saying

        "This is due to the fact that muscles which are normally used as prime movers during a compound movement are fatigued, which alters the motor pattern of the compound movement, resulting in less efficient and even unsafe technical execution of compound lifting movements."

        If you are pre-exhausting your muscle, you wouldn't be lifting heavy in the first place. At least not heavy enough to be concerned of any serious injuries. Besides, that statement supports the idea of targeting secondary muscles during a compound lift, which is the purpose of pre-exhaustion, IMO. Lifting in the 40-65% range is plenty to get huge if the reps are high enough. These techniques came from bodybuilders --> so use them in bodybuilding routines, not powerlifting routines.
      1. fueledpassion's Avatar
        fueledpassion -
        "Bodybuilding, the martial arts, playing the piano, whatever you choose; enjoy the trip more and debate less. Their are friendships to be made, things to learn, and improvements to had as the result of constant pursuit of your individual level of perfection. The best that you are may never bring you recognition, fame, or fortune. But attaining your individual best is a source of happiness and self satisfaction that can enrich your life if you allow yourself the opportunity. For the majority, the only person to whom you should compare yourself is to your former self. Are you better than you were last year, last month, last week, yesterday? Did you improve in any way, not the least of which is your understanding of yourself? If you have, you are successful regardless of the competition. As long as you allow others to define you, happiness will always be a goal, not an accomplishment."

        Good post ^^^


        So if I told you that I increased my arm circumference an inch using giant sets, that'd mean nothing to you and just because the paper work says otherwise, you'd refuse to actually believe that it is effective even with countless people verifying the results?

        Nonetheless, giant sets whip the living crap out of 3 X 10 heavy reps on iso workouts and if done at the beginning of the workout, you can best bet that a pump and total leg exhaustion will be reached by the end of the compound lifts.

        Not to mention that the even more important reason to create lots of blood flow to the leg using iso movements is to get the blood flowing in the joints surrounding the quad and hips, which allows for a safer workout on squats afterwards.

        I really don't need to argue about this as I've used just about all the methods I can think of in the past and have seen results with all of them. Intensity and time-under tension are the key, which is why giant sets work so well.
      1. TKWW's Avatar
        TKWW -
        "So if I told you that I increased my arm circumference an inch using giant sets, that'd mean nothing to you and just because the paper work says otherwise, you'd refuse to actually believe that it is effective even with countless people verifying the results?"

        If you increased your arm measurement by 1 inch, I would say that you chose your parents wisely. You are gifted and poses the ability to attain muscle mass no matter what routine you choose. If an average Joe did 100 reps x 3 sets, that person would have a monoploy on lactic acid, possible exertional rhabdomyalysis, but would not increase arm circumference by 1 inch. One must ask, "how did you arrive at those magic numbers?" Did you first try 50 reps? Why did you stop at 100 reps? Why not 200? Why not 30 sets instead of 3? If blood flow is what matters, 30 sets will produce greater arterial dilation, which appears to be your concern.


        You ask if a claimed 1 inch increase in arm circumference means something to me? No, it does not. Factual or not, it obviously means something to you. Everything you state is clearly your preference to which there is no objection. But you statements have not stood up to scientific examination under controlled circumstances, which you suggest are meaningless. I have been a researcher, a research subject, participated in muscle biopsy examinations of pre and post workout examination, and treated more than 20,000 patients, but my experience pales in comparison to your belief systems. If exercise is a science, should we employ the methodology that produces repeatable results, or listen to the tales that have populated gyms since 1963 (when I first started training)? You subscribe to the later principle that personal experience trumps methodology, I do not. The way data is manipulated to confuse the uninitiated is employed in many ways by exercise professionals of all stripes, especially where selling marginally effective supplements are concerned. The world of academia is no exception to data manipulation as each school of thought attempts to present supporting evidence to substantiate their position. Sifting through the studies (especially case studies) is offensive to many because it reveals poor study design that is usually riddled with selection bias. Selection bias is defined colloquially 'stacking the deck' to produce a desired outcome. Therefore, I do not intend to offend you by stating that your 1 inch of arm growth is difficult to believe. I am stating that you should do what you like, but temper professing to know the truth. You and an impressionable reader will be better served by having an open mind (this is not religion). For some, like yourself, exercise is a hobby. Have fun with it. Enjoy it. Change your routine to have different experiences. If you are gifted physically, you will produce better results and be fooled into believing that you know exercise because your arm grew by 1 inch. I ask, "Would you go to a cardiologist that never had a heart attack?' How can someone that never had a heart attack know how to treat a infarct patient? Are heart attack victims the experts and the MD only a meaningless bystander? This line of thinking is ridiculous. It is as ridiculous as believing that your experience beats anything that those of us that have spent decades understanding this information are nay sayers. I will never look like Mr. O. Therfore, I should understand that those anatomy courses when I dissected cadavers, those physiology courses, the kinesiology, the endocrinology, etc. are less pertinent than Giant Sets if that is what Mr. O proclaims to be the reason for his success. OK.

        I haveNonetheless, giant sets whip the living crap out of 3 X 10 heavy reps on iso workouts and if done at the beginning of the workout, you can best bet that a pump and total leg exhaustion will be reached by the end of the compound lifts.

        Not to mention that the even more important reason to create lots of blood flow to the leg using iso movements is to get the blood flowing in the joints surrounding the quad and hips, which allows for a safer workout on squats afterwards.

        I really don't need to argue about this as I've used just about all the methods I can think of in the past and have seen results with all of them. Intensity and time-under tension are the key, which is why giant sets work so well.[/QUOTE]
      1. TKWW's Avatar
        TKWW -
        "So if I told you that I increased my arm circumference an inch using giant sets, that'd mean nothing to you and just because the paper work says otherwise, you'd refuse to actually believe that it is effective even with countless people verifying the results?"

        If you increased your arm measurement by 1 inch, I would say that you chose your parents wisely. You are gifted and poses the ability to attain muscle mass no matter what routine you choose. If an average Joe did 100 reps x 3 sets, that person would have a monoploy on lactic acid, possible exertional rhabdomyalysis, but would not increase arm circumference by 1 inch. One must ask, "how did you arrive at those magic numbers?" Did you first try 50 reps? Why did you stop at 100 reps? Why not 200? Why not 30 sets instead of 3? If blood flow is what matters, 30 sets will produce greater arterial dilation, which appears to be your concern.


        You ask if a claimed 1 inch increase in arm circumference means something to me? No, it does not. Factual or not, it obviously means something to you. Everything you state is clearly your preference to which there is no objection. But your statements have not stood up to scientific examination under controlled circumstances, which you suggest are meaningless. I have been a researcher, a research subject, participated in muscle biopsy examinations of pre and post workout examination, and treated more than 20,000 patients, but my experience pales in comparison to your belief systems. If exercise is a science, should we employ the methodology that produces repeatable results, or listen to the tales that have populated gyms since 1963 (when I first started training)? You subscribe to the later principle that personal experience trumps methodology, I do not. The way data is manipulated to confuse the uninitiated is employed in many ways by exercise professionals of all stripes, especially where selling marginally effective supplements are concerned. The world of academia is no exception to data manipulation as each school of thought attempts to present supporting evidence to substantiate their position. Sifting through the studies (especially case studies) is offensive to many because it reveals poor study design that is usually riddled with selection bias. Selection bias is defined colloquially 'stacking the deck' to produce a desired outcome. Therefore, I do not intend to offend you by stating that your 1 inch of arm growth is difficult to believe. I am stating that you should do what you like, but temper professing to know the truth. You and an impressionable reader will be better served by having an open mind (this is not religion). For some, like yourself, exercise is a hobby. Have fun with it. Enjoy it. Change your routine to have different experiences. If you are gifted physically, you will produce better results and be fooled into believing that you know exercise because your arm grew by 1 inch. I ask, "Would you go to a cardiologist that never had a heart attack?' How can someone that never had a heart attack know how to treat a infarct patient? Are heart attack victims the experts and the MD only a meaningless bystander? This line of thinking is ridiculous. It is as ridiculous as believing that your experience beats anything that those of us that have spent decades understanding this information are nay sayers. I will never look like Mr. O. Therfore, I should understand that those anatomy courses when I dissected cadavers, those physiology courses, the kinesiology, the endocrinology, etc. are less pertinent than Giant Sets if that is what Mr. O proclaims to be the reason for his success. OK.

        I haveNonetheless, giant sets whip the living crap out of 3 X 10 heavy reps on iso workouts and if done at the beginning of the workout, you can best bet that a pump and total leg exhaustion will be reached by the end of the compound lifts.

        Not to mention that the even more important reason to create lots of blood flow to the leg using iso movements is to get the blood flowing in the joints surrounding the quad and hips, which allows for a safer workout on squats afterwards.

        I really don't need to argue about this as I've used just about all the methods I can think of in the past and have seen results with all of them. Intensity and time-under tension are the key, which is why giant sets work so well.[/QUOTE]

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