Pre-Exhaustion Strength Training for Quick Gains – Fitness Volt

In the field of fitness and bodybuilding, we have a saying: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”

Although this may sound like a cross between a tongue twister and a philosophical statement, it explains very well how a program that has already shown great results usually stops training after a few weeks or a month or two.

You see, your body is the master adapter. When exposed to stress, it makes physiological changes so that when faced with the same stress again, it is better prepared to deal with it. This is the essence of strength training.

When you start a new workout, your body is shocked, so it pulls out all the stops and adapts. As a result, your muscles get bigger and stronger and you recover quickly from training.

But, the more often you do the same workout, the smaller the stimulus for change. Eventually, your body will no longer see your training as a threat and your progress will stop.

That’s why the best workouts are designed to be progressive, which means they get harder over time. Weight increases, doing more reps per set, and taking shorter rests between sets can all help you maintain your progress.

However, despite these interventions, even the best program will stop working in time and you will find yourself stuck in a workout rut.

In most cases, the only way out of a workout rut is to adopt a new program. It will shock your body into growth.

There are hundreds of workouts on Fitness Volt, and here’s another one to add to the list – the pre-exhaust for strength training.

What is pre-exhaust?

Pre-exhaustion is a traditional bodybuilding training method dating back to the 1970s or possibly even earlier. Several people claim to have invented the pre-exhaust, including Arthur Jonesthe founder of Nautilus, bodybuilding guru Joe Weiderand fitness magazine editor Robert Kennedy.

The concept of pre-exhaust is quite simple. During compound exercise, the smaller muscles called synergists tend to fatigue before the main muscle or agonist is completely exhausted.

For example, during bench presses, your triceps may wear out before your pecs, or during pull-ups, your biceps may wear out before your lats.

The pre-exhaust aims to tire out the agonist so that the smaller synergists are no longer the weak link. This is achieved with supersets.

A superset is where two exercises are performed back to back. With pre-exhaustion, the first exercise is an isolation and the second is a compound movement for the SAME muscle group.

Learn more about the difference between isolation exercises and compound exercises here.

For example, you could do:

  • Pec deck before bench press
  • Leg curl before the Romanian deadlift
  • Leg extensions before the leg press
  • Lateral raises before the heard press

Additional benefits and effects of pre-exhaustion training include:

  1. Increased time under tension
  2. Less weight is needed for secondary exercise
  3. Improved mind-muscle connection
  4. More training volume in less time
  5. Increased variety of workouts

Although scientific studies are inconclusive, pre-exhaust has been around long enough that it is safe to say that it works.

In reality, Arthur Jones designed several of the first Nautilus resistance machines for pre-exhaust. He incorporated two machines into one to avoid moving from station to station. For example, he created a chest/chest press, a side raise/shoulder press, and even a leg extension/leg press machine.

The pre-exhaust is unusual enough to get you out of your current workout routine. It’s not necessarily better than traditional sets and reps, but that’s not the point. Instead, it’s the variety that makes the pre-exhaust so valuable.

So if your progress has stalled, going pre-exhaust might be just what you need to shake things up again.

Pre-exhaust strength training

While you could just add a few pre-exhaustion supersets to your current workouts, you’ll likely get better results if you follow a more prescriptive training program.

This pre-exhaustion workout includes four gym sessions per week, with each major muscle trained once every seven days. Biceps and triceps are trained twice because, well, who doesn’t want bigger, stronger, more muscular arms? !

Pre-exhaust strength training

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thusday Friday Saturday Sunday
Chest & Biceps Legs, calves and abs Rest Back & Triceps Rest Shoulders & Abdominals Rest

Before you begin any of these workouts, be sure to spend some time warming up and preparing your muscles and joints for what you’re about to do. Start with a few minutes of easy cardio followed by dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises for the muscles you’re about to work. Finish your warm-up with a few light sets of the first exercise in your workout.

Remember that pre-exhaustion training is a type of superset. This means that the exercises are organized and must be performed in pairs, which are designated a) and b) in the tables below.

So, do the first exercise of each pair, then, resting no more than 10-15 seconds, do the second exercise. Recover for a minute or two, then repeat the pairing.

Pre-Exhaustion Workout 1 – Chest and Biceps

Cable crossings

Pre-Exhaustion Workout 2 – Legs, Calves and Abs

Abdominal Barbell Squats

Pre-Exhaustion Workout 1 – Back and Triceps

Triceps push

Pre-Exhaustion Workout 1 – Shoulders and Arms

Workout Dumbbell Loop

Pre-Exhaustion Training FAQ

Have a question about this pre-exhaust workout plan? We have the answers!

1. Is this a cutting or bulking workout?

You can use the pre-exhaust to cut or inflate. Your results will depend on your diet. Create a calorie deficit and you should be cutting and burning fat. But, if you have a calorie surplus, you need to build muscle and bulk up. So change your diet depending on what you want to get out of your workouts.

2. Can I change the exercises?

Pre-exhaustion is a fairly regulated form of strength training. The order and type of exercises are very important. That said, you can make changes, but you have to stay true to the spirit of the workout.

For example, you can do pushups instead of dips or dumbbell flyes instead of the pec deck. However, you cannot replace an isolation exercise with a compound exercise or vice versa, as that would mean you are no longer doing pre-exhaustion.

3. Can you build strength with the pre-exhaust?

Pre-exhaustion is primarily a hypertrophy or muscle building training system. However, your muscles should get stronger as they get bigger. That said, if you want to increase your strength, you may get better results if you use heavier weights for compound exercises. But if your main goal is to build strength, pre-exhaustion might not be the best program for you.

4. Should I use any supplements for this workout?

You don’t need to use bodybuilding supplements if you don’t want to. In fact, you should be able to get most of the nutrients you need from a balanced diet. That said, some supplements can improve your progress.

Good choices include:

That’s not to say you need any or all of these supplements, but if you want to make better progress in less time, they might come in handy.

5. Do you have a full body pre-exhaustion workout to try?

Yes indeed! Do this workout 2-3 times a week on nonconsecutive days, such as Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Monday and Thursday.

Related: Full or Interval Workouts – How to Choose

Full body pre-exhaustion workout

Barbell Hip Thrust

Wait what? No biceps or triceps exercises?

Remember that your biceps are involved in all upper body pulling exercises and your triceps play a role in all upper body pushing exercises, so you are training them, albeit indirectly.

With all the extra isolation exercises, most people won’t have the time or energy to work their arms either. If you must train your biceps and triceps, just do a few sets for each at the end of your workout.

Training for Quick Gains – Conclusion

Drive ruts and plateaus are very frustrating. Going to the gym is hard enough without seeing significant results.

In some cases, stagnant progress is caused by lack of sleep, poor diet, or lack of rest between workouts. However, if you’ve been following the same plan for more than two months, your body might just get bored with your current workout plan.

Imagine eating the same meal every day. Even if it was once your favorite, eventually you’ll get sick of the same old foods and start craving something new.

The same thing happens if you do the same workout for too long; your body will get used to it and will no longer have a good reason to adapt and grow.

Pre-exhaustion is just one way to breathe new life into your workouts. Use this training program to get out of your current rut and get back to productive training.

Teresa E. Burton