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Updated on February 28, 2012



Remember 1965? The first of each month I rushed to the local drug store to get the latest copy of "Mr. America". There it was; bottom shelf, sandwiched between Popular Mechanics and Motor Trend magazines. Another cover shot of the "Blonde Bomber", Dave Draper. How did he get so big, peaked biceps, and barn door lats? Last year he was a pudgy kid from New Jersey and now he is being worshipped at Muscle Beach. Soon his secret would be revealed as I discovered yet another of Joe Weider's Principles.

Now Weider, (our leader) was the master of marketing. Every technique used by the men in the trenches somehow was developed by Joe and his research team. Every technique was designated as a Weider Principle and assigned an appropriate number. We all knew it was hyped and every article never failed to mention the benefits of taking Weider's Protein 101. But through this marketing maze some techniques emerged that had merit. Whether they actually were conceived by Weider and his "research" was questionable. I tried them all and found value in many of them. Among my favorites and based on my own anecdotal research was the principle of Pre-Exhaust.

To understand Pre-Exhaust you must know the function of the muscles involved in a particular exercise. Each exercise has a muscle that is a primary mover, a synergist, and a stabilizer. The primary movers are responsible for the muscle group movement. The muscles assisting the primary mover are called the synergist. The muscles holding the body in position by keeping it balanced so the exercise can be performed are known as the stabilizers. For example, during the bench press, the pectorals are the primary mover, the front deltoids and triceps are the synergists, and the back, abdominals, and legs that maintain our position on the bench are stabilizers.

The concern when designing a routine is arranging the exercises in an order which maximizes the benefit of each movement. The purpose of the bench press is to work the pectorals but if the shoulders and triceps tire before the chest is completely worked the exercise has limited success. The way around this is to pre-exhaust the pectorals. By performing an isolation exercise first the pectorals are fatigued before they get assistance from the synergists. Those exercises using the synergists are compound exercises and should follow the isolation exercises. Take as an example, the lat cable pull down. Without the upper back being pre-exhausted your biceps (a synergist in the movement) will fatigued first. The lats would be limited by the biceps and therefore never be completely worked. It would be better to pre-exhaust the lats with an isolation movement such as pullovers or stiff-arm pull downs prior to a compound movement like the lat pull down.

The key in pre-exhaust training is isolation exercises first followed by compound movements.

CHEST- Isolation Exercises: Flys, Peck Deck, Cable Crossovers
Compound Exercises: Incline, Flat, Decline Presses

BACK- Isolation Exercises: Pullovers, Stiff-arm Pull Downs
Compound Exercises: Rows, Chins, Pull Downs, Dead Lifts

THIGHS- Isolation Exercises: Thigh Extensions, Leg Curls, Abductor/Abductor
Compound Exercises: Squats, Hacks, Leg Press, Lunges

DELTS- Isolation Exercises: Side, Front, Rear Laterals
Compound Exercises: Shoulder Press, Upright Rows (wide)

TRAPS- Isolation Exercises: Shrugs
Compound Exercises: Cleans, Upright Row (narrow)

TRICEPS- Isolation Exercises: Push downs, Extensions, Kickbacks
Compound Exercises: Dips, Close-grip Bench Press

BICEPS- Isolation Exercises: Concentration Curls, Incline Curls
Compound Exercises: Standing Dumbbell Curls, Barbell Curls

FOREARM- Isolation Exercises: Wrist Curls, Reverse Wrist Curls
Compound Exercises: Hammer curls, Reverse Curls

When performing the compound exercise you will not be able to use as much weight as you normally would. Don't be concerned with the poundage as much as the idea of engaging more completely the fibers for the muscles being worked. The Pre-Exhaust technique is a change of intensity. You will be working harder because you've already pre-exhausted the belly of the muscle on an isolation movement prior to the compound exercise.


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