The Rebirth of the Pre-Exhaust Principle

By: Tim Rigby (Courtesy of Inside Fitness)

If you’re under the age of 30, you may be scratching your head and wondering, “what exactly is the pre-exhaust principle?”  This popular specialty technique has been around since the ‘60s and has undergone fluctuations in usage; it was particularly all the rage in the ‘70s and was thrust into prominence by fitness publishing icon Bob Kennedy, one of a handful of individuals responsible for bringing Arnold Schwarzenegger to America.  Simply put, it involves performing sets of an isolation exercise in advance of sets of a compound exercise that works the same muscle group.  A popular example of this is performing the pec-deck flye to isolate your chest muscles, and then following it up with a compound chest move like the bench press.

What’s the point of the pre-exhaust?  Well, muscle growth is important to you, is it not?  By working a certain muscle group unto itself first, you can prime it for greater stimulation before attacking it with heavier weights that involve auxiliary muscle groups too.  The ultimate goal of the pre-exhaust is to accelerate your muscular development more than if you simply performed straight sets alone.  The pre-exhaust principle has been scrutinized at large for decades, always with the same positive conclusion that it works.  Keep in mind that after you complete the isolation exercise and move on to the compound move, you’ll likely have to reduce the resistance of the weights you employ, relative to your usual.  Don’t worry about this, however.  Some of the world’s elite bodybuilders swear by this method and rave about the gains they make from it.


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