Workout Systems: Post Exhaustion Method
A post-exhaustion workout is a great plateau buster. As the name suggests, this is a type of superset in which you first perform a compound exercise followed by an isolation exercise that targets a muscle you want to emphasize. In fact, research suggests that this method of training may be superior to Robert Kennedy’s popular pre-exhaustion method.
With pre-exhaustion, a muscle is first fatigued by a single-joint exercise, and then further exhausted by performing a multijoint exercise involving the same muscle group and additional muscle groups. Examples include performing a biceps curl followed by a chin-up, or a dumbbell lateral raise followed by a military press.
The goal of pre-exhaustion was to produce a higher level of fatigue in the targeted muscles, but research has revealed its limitations. In a study published in the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers looked at the effects of performing a knee extension exercise (isolation exercise) followed immediately by a leg press exercise (compound movement). Seventeen heavy male subjects were used in the study, which involved having the subjects perform a pre-exhaustion superset and the leg press exercise by itself. Ten repetitions were performed for each exercise.
Using EMG analysis, the researchers found that the activation of two quadriceps muscles, the rectus femoris and the vastus lateralis, was significantly less when the subjects used the pre-exhausted method. They also found that when using the pre-exhaustion method, the subjects performed fewer repetitions with the leg press, suggesting that this is an inferior method for developing strength. The authors concluded, “Our findings do not support the popular belief of weight trainers that performing pre-exhaustion exercise is more effective in order to enhance muscle activity compared with regular weight training.”
With the post-exhaustion method, you get the maximum strength training effect from the compound movement and can further fatigue a single muscle with an isolation movement. The key is that you have to select an exercise that recruits a lot of motor units, such as a chin-up or a squat, followed by a superior isolation exercise, such as a Scott curl or a split squat lunge. You would not have as much success with this workout with easier movements such as triceps kickbacks or a cable flys. Here is an example of how a post-exhaustion protocol can be applied to arm training:
A1. Close-Grip Chin-up: 4 x 4-6 reps, 4010 tempo, rest 10 seconds
A2. Low Incline Dumbbell Curl: 4 x 6-8 reps, 5010 tempo, rest 180 seconds
B1. Parallel Bar Dips: 4 x 4-6 reps, 3210 tempo, rest 10 seconds
B2. Overhead Rope Extension: 4 x 8-10 reps, 3110 tempo, rest 180 seconds
On the first workout of this routine, it’s normal to experience a significant strength loss every successive superset. For example, during the first set you may be able to complete 6 chins with an additional 50 pounds and curl 8 reps with 45-pound dumbbells. By the fourth set, however, you may only squeeze out 4 reps with your bodyweight in the chin-up and curl a pair of 35-pound dumbbells. As you go through this routine, your strength-endurance should skyrocket and you will be able to handle heavy weights for every set. You will also see your arm size increase appreciably.
Now here is a sample post-exhaustion routine for the brachialis:
A1. Narrow-Grip Pronated Pull-ups: 4 x 4-6 reps, 4010 tempo, rest 10 seconds
A2. Standing Reverse Curl: 4 x 6-8 reps, 3210 tempo, rest 180 seconds
B1. Close Semisupinated Pull-up: 4 x 4-6 reps, 4010 tempo, rest 10 seconds
B2. Seated Zottmann Dumbbell Curl: 4 x 6-8 reps, 3210 tempo, rest 180 seconds
If your results from training have slowed or stagnated, or if you’re looking for ways to shock specific muscles into greater growth, give post-exhaustion method a try.