Workout Tips

Why Compound Exercises Aren't Working for You

Gain mass by targeting your muscles by doing isolation exercises before doing a compound exercise.


Pre-Exhaust Triceps Routine 

  • Pushdown: Sets: 3 Reps: 12-15
  • Machine Dip: Sets: 3 Reps: 10-12
  • Rope Extension: Sets: 3 Reps: 12-15
  • Close-grip Bench Press: Sets:3 Reps: 10-12

Weakest Link

Bodybuilders know from empirical evidence that pre-exhaust works. Not only does it increase workout intensity, but it also helps you hit the target. If you pump up an area first, it comes into focus during the compound exercise. In our sample routine, performing pushdowns before dips, and rope extensions before close-grip bench presses, you can be assured that you’re feeling your triceps working during the two compound lifts. That said, the effectiveness of this technique is not dependent on a feeling. You need to push the isolation exercises hard. Go to failure or near failure. Never think of the isolation sets as a warmup or pump-up. You’re trying to tire that muscle, not just flush it with blood.

The weakest link fails first. In the case of pre-exhaust, that’s a good thing. By temporarily tiring a muscle with individualized toil, you can be assured it’ll be the weakling during the subsequent team activity. Sure, that’s going to rob strength from the team, but the targeted muscle will be worked to the max, tapping out before other muscles can butt in and do too much. When used correctly pre-exhaust proves the weakest link can be the hardest worker and, in turn, the fastest grower.

Pre-Exhaust Tip Sheet

Tense the targeted area during the compound exercise to prevent other muscles doing too much. To up intensity, do pre-exhaust supersets. Immediately follow the isolation exercise with the compound lift.

Because it’s difficult to target only your back with deadlifts, try dead-lifting after other back exercises. You can do all isolation exercises, such as three types of curls, before ending with a compound lift, like rack pullups.