The Herald (Zimbabwe)
The pre-exhaust training system
ATHLETES cross train with weights as a way of conditioning their physiques. They do this as a way of avoiding injuries or mitigating the extent of damage and aiding speedy recovery should they get injured. Athletes also exercise with weights a way of aiding performance by gaining fitness components like flexibility, strength and power. Although technique is the most important thing in the execution of moves in all sports, some sports also heavily rely on strength.
Body-builders build and shape their physiques with lean muscle proportionately and symmetrically distributed using strength exercises.
Power lifters strive to lift heavy weights in three lifts namely the squat, bench press and dead lifts. These are compound exercises that involve several muscle groups.
These athletes rely on total body strength, they have to do strength exercises for the whole body and they cannot afford to have any weak areas.
The same applies to weightlifters who have to execute different lifts with heavy weights. These are not the only athletes who rely on strength, though. Strength is usually relative to muscle size, and the growth of muscle comes as a result of maximum stimulation and innervations (regeneration) of muscle fibres. Therefore, advanced athletes strive to reach what is called a point of failure in every exercise they engage in during training.
This is a zone that is associated with pain because maximum muscle fibres will have been stimulated to the limit.
Excruciating pain means you have managed to exhaust a large percent of the fibres in the targeted muscle group.
Serious weight training athletes love this pain and they enjoy shouting out encouraging maxims like ‘No pain, no gain.’
They grunt, they groan, they wince in reaction to the pain and in celebration of a successful execution of the exercise. This pain heralds the growth of muscle plus the strength that comes with it. This maximum stimulation of muscle fibres is reached by exercising using high repetitions or heavy weights.
The logic behind the pre-exhaust system arises from the fact that, apart from the strong will and the ability to withstand the pain, there are factors that can make the targeted stronger muscles fail to reach this point of failure.
Because compound exercises involve two or more muscle groups, the point of failure can be prematurely reached when the weakest muscle group within the chain of performing muscles is fatigued and can no longer work. This happens while the targeted stronger muscles have not been worked to their maximum capacity.
The weak link can be naturally weak muscles or joints. This weak- ness can be due to a natural small bone structure or injuries. These weak links will prohibit the use of heavyweights and high repetitions for maximum stimulation. In such instances the pre-exhaust training program will help.
The squat exercise provides a good example of the application of the pre-exhaust system. Because the squat provides maximum benefits for thighs, it is a must-do exercise for body-builders weightlifters and power lifters. It is then quite common to see small boned athletes forcing themselves to squat with very heavy weights trying to match their big boned rivals. They feel they will miss out and they force matters but the result can be permanent injuries. Aged athletes may still want to train heavy as they used to, they fail to comprehend that their physiology is changing as they age.
These individuals need to take the differences in physiology into consideration and they need to apply alternative strategic principles.
In the squat the chain of muscles involved include the lower back , the gluteus maxims ,the hip flexors the front thighs (inner, outer, upper. lower) and the hamstrings (the two leg biceps and) ,the knees’ joints ,and the balancing feet.
Usually the knees can be a weak link and the supporting muscles of the lower back can also be weak link. The feet also need to be planted on the ground firmly while you squat with the heavy weights. Personally, I prefer to use the old system of standing on a plank. I find this is good for balance and maintaining good posture during exercise execution.
With such limitations for example it is necessary to start thigh work , firstly by exercising with direct , isolation exercises on the targeted big hamstrings and the big front thighs, thoroughly exhaust- ing them before embarking on the compound exercise, squats.
You can do all the direct exercises for the big hamstrings.
After exhausting the hamstrings you start the front thigh workout with the leg extension exercise, which is an isolation exercise that isolates the front thigh and works the area just above the knees.
This exercise is also used for knee rehabilitation. Starting with this exercise pre-exhausts the front thigh area, thoroughly warming the knees up and allowing you to squat, something you would not be able to do with cold knees.
By the time you engage in the squat there is no danger of getting knee injuries .Even if a knee is injured you might be able to train through the injury.
Because the targeted big strong muscles (thighs) are already exhausted there is no need to use super heavy weights and the roping in of the rest of the fresh muscle like the back and the hip flexors on squats will assist in lifting reasonable weights that will thoroughly stimulate the exhausted targeted strong muscles without stressing the vulnerable and weak areas through the use of heavy weights.
The already exhausted strong muscles will tire out at the same time as the weak muscles.
Early fatigue of the weak muscle limits the maximum use of stronger muscle; thus we can say the chain is as strong as its weakest link.
This week we discussed how we can use the pre-exhaust system to exercise around weak areas. Next week we will conclude the issue by discussing how we can use the pre-exhaust to strengthen weak areas.
Innocent Choga is a six time National Bodybuilding Champion with international experience. He is studying for a science degree in Physical Education and Sport