By Charles Poliquin
Q: What is pre-exhaustion and post-exhaustion? Are they good for muscle growth?
A: For pre-exhaustion you fatigue a muscle with a single-joint exercise and then further exhaust it with a multi-joint exercise for the same muscle that brings in other muscle groups.
For example, you can do biceps curls followed by chin-ups or lateral raises followed by behind-the-neck presses.
It sounds simple enough, but it’s an amazingly effective training system for stimulating muscle growth – while giving you a butt-kicking workout.
Pre-exhaustion is a training principle that was introduced to the bodybuilding world in 1968 by the late Robert Kennedy in Iron Man, but it was Nautilus creator Arthur Jones who popularised it and was obsessed with finding the most effective – and painful! -ways to use it Jones liked the pre-ex concept so much that he even designed several of his early Nautilus machines to combine two exercises into one to minimise the amount of rest time between sets; for example, a leg extension/leg press and a lateral raise/ overhead press.
As for post-exhaustion, its a great plateau buster. As the name suggests, this is a type of superset in which you start with a compound exercise and then follow it with an isolation exercise that taps into the same motor pool of the muscle you want to focus on.
The key is to select an exercise that recruits a lot of motor units, such as a chin-up or squat, and follow it with a superior isolation exercise, such as a Scott curl or a split squat lunge.
Two examples of effective postexhaustion superset combinations are dose-grip chins followed by low-incline dumbbell curls and parallel-bar dips followed by overhead rope extensions.