The Pre-exhaust weight lifting technique typically involves performing a single joint exercises (such as the leg extension) prior to performing a related multi-joint movement (such as the squat or leg press). Some bodybuilders believe this increases the intensity placed on the working muscle and stimulates better growth.
I’ve never been a big fan of pre-exhaust training simply because it fatigues the muscles and limits the amount of weight used in the multi-joint exercise, thus reducing the amount of overload placed on the muscle.
Any time you limit overload, you limit the potential to increase strength and building muscle size.
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Effects of Pre-Exhaust Exercise
A recent study investigated the effects of pre-exhaustive exercise (leg extension) in thigh muscle activation during the leg press exercise. The quadriceps are the largest thigh muscles and the prime movers in all leg pressing movements.
Electromyography readings from taken from the quadriceps of seventeen males revealed that recruitment (activation) of these muscles was significantly less when the pre-exhaust technique was used, as compared to straight sets with maximal weight.
The subjects also performed significantly fewer repetitions using the pre-exhaust technique.
Stimulus on the Working Muscle
These results demonstrate that the pre-exhaust technique actually reduces the stimulus on the working muscle, and growth hormone output. The pre-exhaust technique reduced the amount of overload and total amount of work performed. Stick to performing all-out straight sets, with maximum weight – you’ll make much better gains in strength and muscle growth.
Warm Muscles Ensure Better Performance
Whether it’s lifting your heaviest weights in the gym or performing out on the field, research now shows that warm muscles ensure better performance than cold muscles. Researchers from Arkansas State have recently showed that cold muscles have a reduced capacity to produce force.
This study determined the effects of environmental cooling on force production in the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Ten men performed maximal leg extension and flexion on a Cybex II isokinetic dynamometer.
Blood Flow Between Sets
Between sets, the subjects sat in environmental temperatures of 20, 15, 10, or 5 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes. A significant decrease in force was noted for both quadriceps and hamstrings muscles as environmental temperatures became cooler.
A significant amount of heat is lost from muscles when the body is exposed to cool environmental temperatures. The take-home message is that increasing blood flow to muscles increases their temperature and ability to produce maximal force.
That’s why your warm up is so important. If you haven’t trained in a while, or exercise in a cold environment, be sure to warm up your muscles thoroughly or your performance will suffer.