Big Lifts Versus Pre-Exhaust

To get bloody huge, you know you need to respect the trifecta: eat, rest and train. But with so much available information and so many conflicting opinions, it can be confusing. And it’s no different at the gym. You hear that you need to do the big lifts first. So you plan to do squats, deads and the bench press at the start of your session. Then you also hear that if you want to grow, you need to pre-exhaust your muscles before hitting them with the big compounds. So what’s the correct way to do it?

Researchers looked at whether it was more effective to do either compound exercises or pre-exhaustion first. And they concluded a few different things. First, their findings suggested that doing either pre-exhaustion or a compound exercise first has no difference on total muscle activation (how much the muscle is being used). And the total work done in the workout is independent of the order of the exercises. However, they did note that if you’re looking to get better at a certain exercise, it should be done at the start of the training session. 



Doing either the pre-exhaustion approach or big exercises first is fine. But if you find that one method works better for you, stick to that. And if you’re not sure, try each and see which you respond to the best.



Gentil P, Oliveira E, de Araújo Rocha Júnior V, do Carmo J, Bottaro M. Effects of exercise order on upper-body muscle activation and exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Nov;21(4):1082-6.