Can you explain the principle of pre-exhausting muscles and why one would like to do isolation work before compound movements for more hypertrophy? And could this two types of exercise be combined by alternating one set of each or should one do all 2-5 sets of the isolated work exercise first and all 2-5 sets of the compound movement exercise afterwards?


Pre-exhausting muscles before engaging in compound movements can enhance muscle hypertrophy by initially fatiguing a targeted muscle group through isolation exercises. This is beneficial because when you subsequently perform compound movements, the pre-fatigued muscles are forced to work harder which can lead to greater muscle growth even though it may decrease overall performance during the compound exercise due to fatigue 1.

As for exercise order, both approaches of alternating sets between isolation and compound exercises or completing all sets of one before the other can work. It depends on your specific goals and training preference. If the aim is to ensure that a muscle of interest receives sufficient stimulation before becoming secondary in a compound movement, pre-fatigue can be a valuable strategy, starting with the isolation work 2. This might mean doing multiple sets of the isolated exercise before moving on to the compound movement or vice versa. However, it should be noted that if hypertrophy is the main objective, this needs to be balanced against considerations of overall fatigue and the desired training volume across a week 3.

Maximizing Muscle Growth

Andrew discusses the benefits of pre-exhausting muscles before compound movements to better target specific muscle groups and generate hypertrophy. He emphasizes the importance of isolating muscles and questions to consider when aiming for muscle growth.

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Science of Muscle Growth, Increasing Strength & Muscular Recovery | Huberman Lab Podcast #22

It's also important to recognize that hypertrophy is the result of muscle isolation, which involves deliberate and intense contractions of specific muscle groups as opposed to a distributed effort across multiple groups typical in compound movements 4.

In planning a training program for hypertrophy, focus should be put on consistent execution of exercises targeting all major and minor muscle groups, managing the intensity to get close to failure, and organizing the exercises in a way that aligns with your personal strength, skill, and safety 5.

However, the specifics of alternating sets or completing them in blocks can be left up to preference and practicality, as long as the total volume and intensity needed for hypertrophy are being achieved 2. It is important to be aware that intense muscle soreness, such as having trouble sitting in a car or using the toilet due to pain, is not conducive to building muscular endurance and should be avoided 6.