Pre-Exhaustion: Check Your Weight Lifting Technique

It’s a great feeling when you know that you are getting stronger. Stepping into the gym, grabbing your weight and pushing yourself for even a couple more reps than you have ever gotten before can be very exhilarating. It can set the tone for that day and days to come. And likewise, if you are lifting and you can’t lift as much as the last time, or your gains have stopped for an extended period of time you might feel demoralized and not want to go on. However, what if you planned to be able to do less?

Pre-exhaustion is a technique by which you will work your muscles to the point that you will not be able to move the kind of weight that you may want to, to the extent that you are actually trying to increase your own muscle mass. It sounds a bit confusing, but sometimes by pushing yourself to the point of near-exhaustion even before you really start lifting you will be able to maximize the amount of muscle tissue being worked and increase muscle growth and endurance. Here are some examples for pre-exhaust exercises.


Start by going to the leg extension machine. You goal here is to do high reps with the most weight that you can handle. This isn’t just about the weight or the reps alone, you should be pushing yourself as hard as you would for any other set to the point that you will be tired before even getting to your next station. I like to shoot for about 20 reps as heavy as I possibly can. If you don’t usually do any warm-ups make sure that you do a lighter set to start just to warm up your muscles and reduce the chance of injuries.

Follow this up with a large muscle group exercise. While extensions work on isolating your quads, you should do either squats, leg presses or hack squats in order to get the most out of your efforts.


Start at the pec deck or machine fly station. This is a great way to isolate your pec muscles as well as tiring out your front delts and biceps, which also assist in this range of motion. By exhausting your supporting muscles, your chest will have to work much harder in order to complete the lift.

Your next exercise should be either a flat, incline or decline barbell bench press in order to utilize the most weight that you can handle and put the greatest amount of force on your muscle. You can do dumbbell exercises as well, but the very nature of dumbbells keeps you from using the same amount of weight as a barbell would.

Pre-exhaust can be done with any muscle group, but often has the greatest effect on your larger muscles groups since said groups also require the support of smaller muscle groups in order to perform the exercise. These exercises should always be done with a spotter, especially since muscle failure is much more common when you have already exhausted your muscles.

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