The pre-exhaust method has been a great tool for bodybuilders throughout the years for muscle building. It incorporates hitting an isolation movement before any sort of compound movement to thoroughly pump up the muscle and work on the contractions before hitting the big weight movements. Although criticized by many, the one major downfall this lifting technique has is that your energy level is depleted before you’re able to actually hit any sort of big, compound movement. With its pro’s and con’s, pre-exhausting or pre-fatiguing the muscle is a tool that can be used to overload the muscle and initiate growth to some point. Follow these examples for some weak area body parts to determine how the pre-exhaust method will give you some newfound gains.
Pre-Exhaust Legs: Leg Extensions/Squats
One of the most difficult body parts to develop is the legs, but this technique will have your legs blitzed and give you an insane pump. Using the leg extension machine first, perform regular sets of around 8-12 repetitions with 3-4 sets to start off with. Since you’re probably used to squatting first while you’re fresh, this may seem easy. Once leg extensions are completed, head over to the squat rack.
You will find that your quads are already incredibly pumped up and that you’ll need to choose the weight on the bar wisely. Like we’ve said before, you’ve already exhausted your quads so the pump you’ll get from doing a set of squats will be insane due to the mind-muscle connection you’ve already achieved from just hitting the quads on extensions.
Pre-Exhaust Chest: Incline Cable Flyes/Barbell Bench Press
Working out the chest is probably ranked pretty high on everyone’s list of favorite body part to hit. But do you ever have trouble just hitting the chest without using the front delts or triceps? Using the pre-exhaust method first in your workout will not able to help protect you from injury but it will also help you activate the chest muscles first before hitting a heavy compound movement. For example, try hitting come incline cable flyes to start off your workout. This will keep constant tension on your upper chest (a weak part for many anyways) and force activation to be placed just on the chest. After completing 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps, then perform a standard flat barbell bench press. With the chest already fully engaged, the bench will allow you to overload the muscle with heavier weight than you could perform on an isolation exercise. This will help alleviate shoulder pain and tension when bench as well because your chest will be well warmed up.
Pre-Exhaust Shoulders: Dumbbell Lateral Raises/Shoulder Press
The shoulders can be a sticky muscle group to work and is usually the source of a lot of lifter’s pain. Usually this comes from not properly warming up the muscles and the range of motion being poor. To help with this as well as spiking growth, hit some side lateral raises to start with. Start with a light weight you can hit 20 reps with, but work up to a couple of sets of 8-12 reps.
The later al, anterior and even some posterior delt work has already been achieved so now we can move on to the heavy stuff. Follow the lateral raises with 4 sets of 8-10 on either standing or seating barbell shoulder presses. The delts are thoroughly warmed up at this point and even though the weight on the bar may be lighter than you’re used to, the contraction should be a lot greater. This better mind-muscle contraction will eventually lead to greater muscle growth.
Pre-Exhaust Back: Straight Arm Pushdowns/Wide-Grip Pull Downs
The lats are a weak point on many lifters due to the traps wanting to take over a majority of the work. What we want to do here is eliminate trap involvement during bigger movements by warming up the lats and contracting them solely with some isolation work before hitting the heavy lifts. Start off by getting on a high pulley machine with a wide bar attachment. Perform 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps of straight arm pushdowns with a moderate weight, really emphasizing the squeeze and contraction of the muscle at the peak of the movement.
Once completed, we now move on to some heavy wide-grip pull downs to mainly hit the lats but also the lower traps, erectors and rhomboids. You will feel a difference in how well you’re able to perform the movement since the lats are thoroughly warmed up and ready to take on some heavy weight.
Although not an end-all, cure-all for building muscle, the pre-exhaust technique does have some viable pros to helping with muscle growth. Be creative with your training and recognize weak areas and attack those with some special techniques like this and see yourself grow!