Workout Routines

Pre-Exhaust Leg Workout for Bigger, Stronger Wheels

Switch things up with this training approach to spark greater overall muscle gains.

front squat with barbell
Duration 1 day
Exercises 4
Equipment Yes

We all know big, compound movements equal big gains in strength and size. And since compound movements are more taxing on our bodies, we should perform them first and follow them with isolation movements, right? Well, yes the majority of the time this should be the protocol, but sometimes we need to shake things up a bit. After all, our bodies adapt to the stimuli we throw at them.

The Repeated Bout Effect

Basically, the repeated bout effect states that doing the same exercises over and over will cause less muscle damage (a key factor in muscle growth). Basically, our body adapts if we always present the same stimuli to it. One way to add a completely new stimulus to the body is with pre-exhaustion training.

What is Pre-Exhaustion?

Pre–Exhaustion training is doing a single-joint isolation movement to failure before you do your compound lift. It is the exact opposite of what we normally think of as a sound training plan. An example would be doing leg extensions before front squats, or side raises before standing military press. This method has been used by bodybuilders for decades, check out “Pumping Iron” and you will see the Austrian Oak himself using pre-exhaustion.

Why Pre-Exhaust?

The theory behind pre-exhaustion training is pretty simple. Basically, when you fatigue the prime mover with an isolation movement it forces you to recruit more muscle fibers during the heavier compound movement that follows.

Pre-exhaustion also allows the use of lighter weights in your compound movements, which can be helpful when working around injured or sore ligaments and tendons. Because of the lighter weight used pre-exhaustion may also help to prevent injuries.

Another benefit of pre-exhaust training is that it gets blood flowing to the muscles that are going to be working during the compound exercise, making them nice and warm and less prone to injury.

The Leg Workout

Do not superset the exercises. Take a normal 1-2 minute break in between each set. One of the great things about pre-exhaust training is that it is not rocket science. Simply fatigue the prime mover with an isolation movement and then hit a compound exercise that uses the same prime mover. Anybody can figure out how to do it and there are endless combinations of lifts.

How Often?

Pre-exhaust training can be extremely taxing. For this reason it is only recommended for intermediate to advanced lifters. Beginning lifters should avoid this method until a certain proficiency and training maturation is reached. For the intermediate lifter, pre-exhaustion can be used once a week. Pick a different body part to pre-exhaust each week and switch it up weekly. For the advanced lifter, listen to your body and incorporate pre-exhaustion when you deem it necessary.

The Workout

Exercise 1

4 sets
20 reps
-- rest
Last set to failure

Exercise 2

Barbell Front Squat You'll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
Barbell Front Squat thumbnail
4 sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Lying Leg Curl How to
Lying Hamstring Curl thumbnail
4 sets
20 reps
-- rest
Last set to failure

Exercise 4

Romanian Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Romanian Deadlift thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
-- rest