|Does it really make sense to pre-exhaust the pectoralis major on cable crosses before you bench to increase your strength and size gains?|
In fact, pre-exhaustion training (PreEx) is often recommended for advanced trainees to break plateaus (Darden 2004; Baechle. 2008); and that in spite of the fact that evidence that would support its efficacy from chronic resistance training studies is scarce / non-existent. Reason enough for James Peter Fisher and his colleagues from the Southampton Solent University, Discover Strength and the Manchester Metropolitan University to "determine the effects of a 12-week PreEx training intervention upon muscular strength and body composition." (Fisher. 2014).
To this ends, the scientists randomized their 39 participants with at least 6 months resistance training experience and no medical condition to one of the following three training groups:
- PE: Classic pre-exhaustion with isolation before compound exercise and no rest in-between
- PER: Same as PE, but with 60s rest periods in-between
- Control: Same exercises as in PE, but with compound exercise first
|Table 1: Overview of the exercises in the pre-exhaustion and classic training groups (Fisher. 2014)|
|Figure 1: Mean strength changes and 95% confidence intervals for each group and exercise (Fisher. 2014)|
The CON group performed the same exercises in the following order, prioritizing compound exercises: chest press, leg press, pull-down, pec-fly, leg extension, pull-over, abdominal flexion, and lumbar extension. They rested 60 s between each exercise and performed a similar training as 90%+ of the trainees.
As the data in Figure 1 shows, there were no statistical significant effects of the training modalities on the strength gains on chest press, leg press and pull-down. What is interesting, though, is the slightly higher strength gain in the pre-exhaust + rest group (PER | light grey), which would suggest that pre-exhaustion, albeit with adequate rest between the "exhaustion" exercise and the subsequent compound exercise can help trainees with adequate training experience (here >6 months) bust through plateaus.
Keep in mind - Change triggers gains! One thing we must not forget, though, is that any change in your training regimen can provide an important new growth stimulus. In view of the fact that most trainees train according to the classic regimen, the increased strength gains in the CON vs. PER group may in fact have been the result of a general change in training style which does not necessarily have to be related to the pre-exhaustion technique.A brief glance at the corresponding changes in body composition are yet less exciting. Despite the (non-significantly) higher strength gains in the pre-exhaustion + rest (PER) group, their body composition did not benefit from the change in training style.
|Figure 2: Changes in body composition 95% confidence intervals min vs. max (Fisher. 2014)|
- Baechle, T.R., and Earle, R.W. 2008. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 3rd Ed. Human Kinetics Publishing Company, Champaign, Ill., USA.
- Darden, E. 2004. The New High Intensity Training. Rodale, USA.
- Fisher, James Peter, et al. "The effects of pre-exhaustion, exercise order, and rest intervals in a full-body resistance training intervention." Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 39.999 (2014): 1-6.
- Henselmans, Menno, and Brad J. Schoenfeld. "The Effect of Inter-Set Rest Intervals on Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Hypertrophy." Sports Medicine (2014): 1-9.
- Ratamess, N.A., Brent, A.A., Evetoch, T.K., et al. "Progression models in resistance Training for Healthy Adults." Med. Sci. Sports. Exerc. 41, 3 (2009): 687–708.