T Nation

Pre Exhausting a Muscle


Hello CT ,

What’s your opinion on pre exhausting a muscle with a single joint exercise before you make a multijoint exercise ?
I have read an article by josh Bryant where he says that prexhausting does not work.

What’s your opinion?

Thanks in advance


There is not a single technique involving resistance training that “does not work”. The very worse it can do is only give you small gains… but any type of lifting activity done at a sufficient level of intensity (or hard enough) will produce some form of results. It might not be optimal but saying that a certain training “does not work” is, at the very least, incorrect.

In my experience pre-fatigue can be effective to improve mind-muscle connection to a certain muscle. For example if you pre-pump your quads prior to doing squats you will feel the quads a lot more when you squat. As a result of being “more aware” of them you improve mind-muscle connection to the quads. While it might not be the most effective way to train for immediate strength gains, it certainly can be an investment in future gains.

It also depends on which angle you are looking at the method from. For example a lifter who is first and foremost about getting stronger and uses methods aimed at increasing strength gains (as in lifting bigger weights on the big lifts) pre-fatigue might seem counterproductive because you will lift less weight on the big compound movement (because of some local fatigue).

However if someone looks at it from a purely muscle-building perspective his opinion will be different.

A recent presentation by Dr.Stuart Philips has shown that if you go to muscle failure, the weight used is not relevant. In his study he had equal results in hypertrophy with weights either 30% or 80% of 1RM if failure was reached. So if hypertrophy is your goal, it really doesn’t matter if you are forced to use less weight on the compound movement because of the pre-fatigue exercise. In fact it will make the target muscle reach failure sooner and will thus be more effective to stimulate growth in the targeted muscle.

If your goal is just to lift more on the big compound movements then pre-fatigue might not be adequate… in part because you are changing the inter-muscular coordination; if you are fatiguing one muscle more than the others, the recruitment of the various muscles involved in the lift will change which might make you less efficient at lifting maximal weights under normal circumstances.

But if your goal is to stimulate hypertrophy then it can work. it’s not a technique that I often use but it can work.

Note that my friend Paul Carter does all his isolation exercises first then perform his big lift last in the session. This is not pure pre-fatigue (as in doing it as a super set) but it’s a form of it. That way he can’t use as much weight on the big lift, BUT he will still be able to stimulate maximum growth by reaching failure and he protects his joints by being able to achieve a proper stimulation without putting too much tension on the joints and connective tissues.