Pre Exhaust Training – Beat Plateaus and Bring Up Lagging Body Parts

Today I’m going to talk about beating plateaus and bringing up lagging body parts using pre exhaust training. Lagging body parts, we’ve all got them. Plateaus, we’ve all experienced them. Both these situations require that your training be that bit more intense, to stimulate more muscle growth. Enter, pre exhausting!

What is pre exhausting?

Pre exhausting involves exhausting a muscle with an isolation exercise, then hitting it with a big compound exercise with no rest in between sets. Sounds hard? It is, and it needs to be. Pre exhausting is often used by professional bodybuilders to bring up lagging body parts in the lead up to shows, and as I mentioned above, it’s great for busting through plateaus where your muscle either hasn’t increased in size, or strength.

Incorporating pre exhausting into your workout:

When you’re trying to focus on bringing up particular muscle group you need to give it priority, so always work it first in your workout. You should also do your pre exhaustion sets first, because you want to have maximum energy to put into them.

Reps & rest:

So you’re next question is going to be, “how many reps do I do?” Firstly, with the pre exhausting set you should be looking at about 10-12 reps. You should use a weight that allows you just to complete the last rep. You want to make sure the muscle group is completely fatigued. Secondly, the compound set, try to hit about the 6-8 rep mark.

To get the maximum benefit from this technique, slow down the compound set to 2-1-2 rep timing. This means a lower weight, but the amount of time your muscle are under stress is increased and this will result in muscle fibers being used and more muscle growth.

You can give yourself more of a rest between sets than usual, 1.5-2.5 mins is fine. Give yourself enough rest that you have maximum energy left for the next set.

Good isolation/compound pre exhaustion exercises:

Here’s some of my favorite pre exhaustion combos:


  • Straight arm pulldown + lat pull down
  • Reverse fly + cable row


  • Preacher curl + chin up
  • Concentration curl + barbell curl


  • One leg calf raise + donkey calf raise
  • Seated calf raise + standing calf raise


  • Cable crossovers + bench press
  • Pec dec + dips
  • Dumbbell fly + dumbbell press


  • Wrist curls + hammer curls
  • Rev wrist curls + rev grip barbell curl


  • Leg extension + leg press
  • Leg extension + squat/hack squat
  • Leg curl + lunges
  • Leg curl + deadlifts


  • Barbell front raise + military press
  • Seated dumbbell front raise + dumbbell press


  • Smith machine shrug + upright row


  • Skullcrushers + close grip bench
  • Tricep pushdowns + dips
  • Tricep kickbacks + dips

If you have any of your own you’d like to share leave your comments below! Also, don’t forget you can subscribe to Real Weight Training for free and get posts delivered to you as soon as I make them!

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