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  Does Pre-Exhausting Small Muscles Work?

by Jack A. Medina, M.A.

and Roy E. Vartabedian, Dr.P.H.

September 29, 2008


In this issue:

  • Does Pre-Exhausting Small Muscle Groups Before Working Large Muscle Groups Work?
  • Announcing New Book Release from Jack Medina, M.A. and Roy Vartabedian, Dr.P.H.

Jack Medina
The Theory

Bodybuilders often talk about how they like to "pre-exhaust" certain muscle groups when they train, and as a result there will be greater gains in size, strength, and power. Is this theory true?

Biceps and triceps muscle
Details Behind the Theory

The theory behind pre-exhausting small muscle groups first (before large groups) in training is based upon the assumption that most multi-joint exercises (bench presses, chin-ups, etc.) have "weak links." These weak links are small muscle groups (triceps in a bench press, biceps in a chin-up).

Theoretically, when you fail on one of these exercises, you fail because the weak link is failing. By pre-exhausting the major muscle groups (pecs in a bench press, lats in a chin) with an isolation exercise, you would, in theory, be putting the big and small muscle groups on a level so they would receive more equal stimulation.

Research on Muscle Pre-Exhaustion

Brazilian researchers compared the effects of pre-exhaustion to priority training (doing your multi-joint exercise first in a training session) on upper-body muscle activation and exercise performance (Gentile, P., et al. "Effects of exercise order on upper-body muscle activation and exercise performance, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 21: 1082-1086, 2007).

The results of this study question the whole concept of pre-exhaustion and conclude that the theory is wrong. Pre-exhaustion doesn't work because it is based on a flawed concept of how muscle fibers are recruited. With pre-exhaustion, you assume that, as a muscle gets tired, more fibers are recruited until it fails (until you cannot lift the weight anymore).

However, most research shows when you are using heavy weights, most muscle fibers are recruited right from the beginning of an exercise. So there is no need to pre-exhaust your pecs before a bench press. If you are using heavy weight, your pecs will be using all the muscle fibers they can to move that weight.

The Bottom Line

This study also showed that, to get the most out of an exercise, you should do it first in the training session. Subjects in this study performed best on the bench press when they did that exercise first.

Reference: Journal of Pure Power, Volume III, Number 2, June, 2008.

SuperCharge Front Cover
New Release! SuperCharge for the Winning Edge

The fourth book in the The Winning Edge series by Jack Medina, M.A. and Roy Vartabedian, Dr.P.H. will be released at the NSA Leadership Conference in Memphis, Tennessee on October 22nd, 2008.

The new book SuperCharge for the Winning Edge is a compilation of 29 articles of importance on nutrition and fitness for athletes, coaches, those with an active lifestyle, and those beginning a new exercise program.

The following are some of the topics covered:

* Finding Professional Ethics and Personal Integrity in the Supplement Industry * What You Don't Know About Supplements Could Hurt You * In the Pill or in the Mind? * Supplements, Hype, Claims, and Facts * Banned Substances Found in Creatine - I Told You So! * The Final Answer on Protein Supplements * Liquid Micronutrient Performance Enhancement * The Scoop on Energy Drinks * Herbs and Athletic Performance * Hoodia: Does It Work? * Skip the Antlers and Save a Buck! * Glucosamine: Does It Work? * Soccer: Creatine, Carbohydrates, and Fluids * Can an Athlete Drink Too Much Water? * Recharging Your Batteries * Fueling the Body for Peak Performance and Optimal Health * Fast Facts on Nutrients and Metabolism * What You Should Know About Fats * What Is Oxidative Stress, and Why Should I Care? * What Value is the Glycemic Index? * Five Dietary Red Flags to Avoid * Five Ways to Stop "Mindless Eating" * Are You Eating Enough Carbohydrates? * Kids' Carbohydrate Needs * Nutripoints for Kids * Training Children for Maximum Strength and Power

See You at the Conference!

For those of you attending the October 22-25, 2008 NSA Leadership Conference, please stop by our Nutripoints/Winning Edge booth in the Exhibit Hall. The new book will be available there as well as all of our other Nutripoints and Winning Edge publications.

Volume discounts will be available so you can pass along a copy to others you would like to help learn about fitness, nutrition, and the best whole-food supplements available today. Stop by our booth--we are looking forward to seeing you there!

For those not attending the Conference, SuperCharge will be available on our website after the meetings.


See you next month for another edition!

Yours for fitness and health,

Jack A. Medina, M.A.

Roy E. Vartabedian, Dr.P.H.

Designs for Fitness & Wellness

phone: 541-474-2454 or Toll-Free Order Line: 1-866-204-8786

Author/speaker and an expert in Sports Performance Enhancement”. Jack Medina is available for speaking engagements, consultation and personal training of athletes in various sports, professional and amateur. Jack has written a new book, “The Winning Edge: Fueling & Training The Body For Peak Performance” with Dr. Roy Vartabedian, an internationally known New York Times Best Selling Author of the “Nutripoints” program for optimal nutrition. Both books are available online at Jack also has a monthly ezine (newsletter) available free which can be subscribed to on his website. All subscriber’s addresses will be confidential and not sold or given to any other organization or group.

This article contains copyrighted material. Copies of this article may be reprinted without permission of the author only when this bi-line is included with each copy. Jack can be reached at