In most beginner exercise textbooks, it’s common to prescribe multi-joint movements (i.e. squats, bench press, deadlifts, etc.) at the start of your workout, and follow with isolation-type exercises (e.g. biceps curls, leg curls, triceps extensions, etc.).

In the 1960s, Arthur Jones suggested the opposite (an isolation exercise performed immediately before a compound exercise) and referred to it as pre-exhaustion training.

The idea behind this form of training is to avoid the situation where a smaller muscle group fails before a large muscle group during a compound exercise. A simple example would involve the triceps fatiguing before the pecs in a bench press. Now let’s take this training method to the next level.

Eccentric Barbell Biceps Curl

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Introducing pre- and post-exhaust training

This training method involves a giant set of three exercises and combines both pre- and post-exhaust training methods.

You may be familiar with the post-exhaust training method. Basically, it involves a compound exercise followed by an isolation exercise.

An example of this is a chin up paired with a straight-arm press down (to further fatigue the lats) or biceps curl (to further fatigue the guns). The idea behind this method of training is to further fatigue the major or minor muscle group involved in the compound exercise.

Causing maximal temporary exhaustion in a muscle results in more muscle damage and the accumulation of more metabolic byproducts, both of which are important in muscle building. But be careful not to overdo it with this type of training.

It’s easy to over train and become stagnant, so listen to your body and maximize your recovery.

Precision Pre-Exhaust

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Putting Pre- and Post-Exhaust Training into Action

Here are the training parameters:

  • The weight you’ll use for the compound exercise will be lower than when performing the exercise by itself, so leave your ego at the door and use a lighter weight.
  •  Keep the breaks to a minimum between exercises and take 60-90 seconds between sets.
  • The tempo of each exercise should be slow and controlled.
  • Contract the muscle in question as hard as possible for one full second at the end of the range of motion.


Giant Set 1:

Exercise Set Reps
Straight Arm Press Down 3 8 – 10
Chin-Up 3 Max
Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl 3 12

Giant Set 2:

Exercise Set Reps
Flat Bench Pec Flyes 3 8 – 10
Barbell Bench Press 3 10
Decline Triceps Extension 3 12

Giant Set 3:

Exercise Set Reps
Knee Extension 3 8 – 10
Barbell Back Squat 3 10
Hamstring Curls on Swiss-Ball 3 12

Giant Set 4:

Exercise Set Reps
Front Raise 3 8 – 10
Barbell Overhead Press 3 10
Lateral Raise 3 12


Jon Erik Kawamoto_thumb
Jon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS, CEP, is a Strength Coach and Fitness Writer out of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. He contributes regularly to many major health and fitness magazines and websites and is currently in the middle of a master’s in exercise physiology at Memorial University. Check out more of his work at and follow him on Twitter at @JKConditioning.