We all know for a fact, that the workout for a separate muscle group always starts with basic exercises, that include a couple of synergistic muscle groups. After doing these compound exercises, we can proceed with the locally focused, isolated exercises.

Elite bodybuilders use this exact approach, which also makes sense from a physiological point of view. If this kind of training leads us to the desired muscle hypertrophy, harmony and symmetry, then change is not needed.


As we’ve said in previous articles, nothing works forever. At one point, we reach the so called “plateau”, or some kind of muscle disproportion. When we reach that point, our common sense and the instinctive approach call for a significant change, in order to adapt to a new kind of stress.

Where’s the problem, and why is the classical way of training (compound, followed by isolated movements) not so effective anymore?

The main suspect- Negative adaptation.

In order to overcome the breaking point in the training intensity, a trainee should workout within his/her momentary capabilities. During most of the compound movements however, it’s not possible to reach actual failure with all of the muscle groups involved, due to the fact there might be weaker muscle groups in the synergistic chain.

(Example- Doing the exercise ‘incline dumbbell bench press’ your triceps will reach failure before your chest does, which will limit the stress upon your chest). This means that one or more muscles are completely exhausted before the rest of the synergists. Therefore, reaching a simultaneous failure is not possible for all of the muscle groups involved.

Similar examples can be given for the exercises ‘pull ups’ and ‘lat-pulldowns’, as the first to reach failure is the smallest muscle group involved, namely- the biceps.

So, this is where the pre-exhaustion principle kicks in and solves this problem and also gives us a methodical shield from injuries.

In reality, using this principle, you will exclude the weak, limiting points (like the triceps and biceps), by first doing an isolated exercise to target the group you’re aiming for, with the compound exercise that comes after that. (Example- Flys or pec deck [isolated exercise for the chest] before flat barbell bench press [Compound exercise that involves the chest, shoulders and triceps]).

The preceding local exercises will exhaust the chest muscles beforehand, leading them to a momentary tension equality with the extensors (triceps) during the compound exercise. This exercise (flat/incline bench) will allow the completely recovered triceps to create a base for the efficient involvement of the chest musculature, due to the fact they are already relatively tired.

Rest Times

It’s important to know that we should NOT have extensive rests in between sets. Mainly because, even a 1-minute rest can cause the chest muscles to recover almost optimally, which makes the triceps the weak point again.

After we do a combined set, using this principle, we rest as long as needed, to begin the next combination. This is mostly a muscle building technique and not a muscle shaping one.

Body Part Combined Sets
Chest 1. Pec deck + flat dumbbell bench press
2.Dumbbell flys + incline barbell bench press
3. Crossover + parallel bar dips
Back Musculature 1. Laying dumbbell rows + cable rows
2. Hyper-extensions + dead-lifts
Shoulders 1. Lateral raises + behind the neck press
2. Front raises + Arnold press
Quadriceps 1. Leg extensions + Barbell squats
2. Hack squats + leg press


Without a doubt, pre-exhaustion is a perfect tool, when you need change in your workout, which links this principle to the principle of De-adaptation. This method that is a consecutive combination of isolated and compound exercises, exploits the benefits of the isolation principle.

It’s link to the flushing principle is obvious due to the fact the first isolated exercises, activates the cardio-vascular system. The second, compound movement leads the blood flow deep into the capillary network.

Each workout, done using this method puts an accent to the weakly developed muscle groups, which links it to the priority principle. This perfect tool for muscle hypertrophy can be combined with every intense method, as well as all the methods used during the off-season.

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