An in Depth look at: Pre-Exhausted Eccentrics

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Snapshot of Takeaway Points

  • Pre-exhaust protocols are great if you are looking to increase muscle mass or break through a training plateau
  • Your body has no choice but to adapt accordingly
  • This pre-exhaust option will challenge your body and also your mind

Introduction

Also referred to as eccentric maiming, this protocol is a humbling experience for even the seasoned professional. A great protocol if you are looking to increase muscle mass or break through a training plateau. This pre-exhaust option will challenge your body and also your mind.

Pre-exhaust methods are designed to make you work harder in the subsequent fatigued compound movement. Your body has no choice but to adapt accordingly. When used appropriately pre-exhaust methods can have a place within a program geared to increasing muscle mass or for strength gains.

The Protocol

The movements are performed in an agonist superset fashion which means ten seconds between the isolation movement and the compound movement. If you’re taking longer, then you need to plan ahead better or stop making friends and start training! Agonist simply indicating that the same muscle group is selected for both of the exercises. So biceps-biceps is a suitable pairing but biceps-triceps is not.

  • A1) Isolation movement paused in disadvantageous position: 4-6 reps, 10s rest
  • A2) Compound movement: 1 rep at 30 seconds eccentric only, 120s rest
  • Complete 3-5 sets

The disadvantageous position of an exercise is indicated by the strength curve of the movement pattern. In an ascending strength curve, the bottom part of the movement is harder so the pause is performed here. In a descending strength curve, the top part of the movement is harder so the pause is performed here.

Full Session

There are a couple of ways to set out a full session.

Option 1: This option means that you would finish off your 3-5 sets for one muscle group before moving onto another, usually the antagonist. Drawbacks of this would be a bigger drop off in percentage of one repetition maximum used. Advantages would be a higher build-up of growth factors due to incomplete rest. This is also easier to perform in a commercial gym setting as often when you leave one piece of equipment, you’ll return to some idiot ‘using’ it explaining they’ve got 15 minutes left but are taking selfies.

  • A1) Isolation movement paused in disadvantageous position: 4-6 reps, 10s rest
  • A2) Compound movement: 1 rep at 30 seconds eccentric only, 120s rest
  • B1) Isolation movement paused in disadvantageous position: 4-6 reps, 10s rest
  • B2) Compound movement: 1 rep at 30 seconds eccentric only, 120s rest

Option 2: This option is great set up as an agonist-antagonist pairing. A1-A2 could be biceps and A3-A4 would be triceps. The pump you receive when doing it this way is skin splitting! This protocol offers complete rest so you’ll be able to use heavier weights throughout. If in a commercial gym setting I’d perform this with two gym partners. Preferably big, ugly ones that will grunt through every repetition, thus scaring off the selfie brigade!

  • A1) Isolation movement paused in disadvantageous position: 4-6 reps, 10s rest
  • A2) Compound movement: 1 rep at 30 seconds eccentric only, 120s rest
  • A3) Isolation movement paused in disadvantageous position: 4-6 reps, 10s rest
  • A4) Compound movement: 1 rep at 30 seconds eccentric only, 120s rest

Session Examples

Quads
  • A1) Barbell Hack Squat: 4-6 reps, 3210, 10s rest
  • A2) Barbell Back Squat (High Bar, Olympic Style): 1 rep, 30-0X0, 120s rest
Biceps & Triceps
  • A1) Flat Extension (Dumbbell, Neutral): 4-6 reps, 3210, 10s rest
  • A2) Dips: 1 rep, 30-0X0, 120s rest
  • B1 or A3) 60 Degree Incline Curl (Supinated, Offset): 4-6 reps, 3210, 10s rest
  • B2 or A4) Chin Up (Supinated, Narrow): 1 rep, 30-0X0, 120s rest
Hamstrings
Chest & Back
  • A1) 15 Degree Decline Dumbbell Fly (Pronating): 4-6 reps, 3210, 10s rest
  • A2) Flat Barbell Press: 1 rep, 30-0X0, 120s rest
  • B1 or A3) Straight Arm Pull Down (Pronated, Wide): 4-6 reps, 3210, 10s rest
  • B2 or A4) Pull Up (Pronated, Shoulder Width): 1 rep, 30-0X0, 120s rest
Shoulders
  • A1) 80 Degree Incline Lateral Raise (Dumbbell): 4-6 reps, 3012, 10s rest
  • A2) Standing Behind the Neck Press (Snatch Grip): 1 rep, 30-0X0, 120s rest
  • B1) 80 Degree Incline Front Raise (Dumbbell): 4-6 reps, 3012, 10s rest
  • B2) Standing Football Bar Press (Pronated, Mid): 1 rep, 30-0X0, 120s rest

Execution Notes

On certain movements like eccentric dips and pull ups, depending on the strength level of the client, you might want to consider a progression in time under tension. For instance you can start set 1 at 10-010, set 2 at 15-010 and so on. Equally this principle can also be used week to week as a form of progressive overload.

If you don’t have a training partner then ensure you use a rack with safety’s as the eccentric is eccentric only so you will have to dump the barbell at the bottom. Choosing exercises like standing presses means you can push press the weight overhead and then controlling the eccentric.

Do not use dumbbells with eccentric only for pressing. It’s a recipe for disaster as there are too many ways to lose control. A barbell offers the opportunity of more stability and control and therefore more weight as well.

A trainer partner gives you someone who can scream the second count of the eccentric out to you. I always recommend you count backwards from the 15 second mark as it is easier to motivate your brain on what is left as opposed computing what you’ve completed. So have them shout up to 15 every 5 seconds and then back down again. Use a metronome for best results if you don’t have someone to shout at you.

Conclusion

So there you have some examples but also the overview so you can form your own workouts. I look forward to hearing about the DOMS the day after and the subsequent results you will achieve by utilising this protocol!

This is one of many protocols from my extensive vault. Winning Program Design templates can be purchased here but also are offered as part of a package when you sign up to the Winning Performance Forum.

Article written by: Tom Hibbert

Published on: 17/3/2019

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