As we explained in last week’s blog, when you’re trying to exercise more, it can be a little overwhelming when you are confronted with lots of new terminology that you’re not familiar with. At Grow, you’re likely to come across terms like HIIT, AMRAP or Tabata, which we defined in last week’s blog (read more here). If you’re starting to learn more about strength and hypertrophy training, then you may come across terms like supersets, pre-exhaust or German Volume Training. Luckily, Grow’s Head of Strength Ben is on hand to help and has put together together a quick guide to some common training techniques to get you started.
Before we delve into what pre- and post- exhaust training entail, it’s important to understand the difference between isolation and compound exercises. Isolation exercises are single-joint movements that target one particular muscle, without using other muscles to assist the motion. Compound exercises, on the other hand, are multi-joint movements that use a range of different muscles to lift a weight.
Pre-exhaust training aims to really hammer a particular muscle using an isolation exercise, before doing a bigger compound exercise that will work other muscles, as well as the one that has just been isolated previously. For example, you might do lateral raises, before moving on to bench presses. The lateral raises will exclusively target the deltoids, while the bench presses will work the pectorals, as well as supporting arm and shoulder muscles, including the triceps and the previously worked deltoids.
There are a number of benefits to approaching your training in this way. Firstly, it helps to warm up and activate key muscles before starting heavier compound lifts and can contribute to a stronger mind-muscle connection (this refers to being more deeply aware of the muscles you are targeting, driving efficiency of training sessions). It also forces your pre-fatigued muscles to work even harder on the compound lifts.
Pre-exhaust training can work really well when you have to adapt your training due to injury, or if your gym isn’t equipped with enough heavy weights to go around during peak times. It’s also just a great way to mix up your training routine.
For the isolation exercise, focusing on the mind-muscle connection is really important, ensuring slow and controlled movement to keep the muscles under tension.
Lateral raises: 8 reps
Bench press: 10 reps
Rest for 60-90 seconds, then repeat for 3 sets
As you may have guessed from the name, post-exhaust is essentially the reverse of pre-exhaust. Instead of doing the isolation exercise before the compound movement, you do it afterwards. So, this time, you target a group of muscles with the heavy weights, before targeting one of those muscles with a lighter isolation exercise.
Weighted back squat: 3 sets of 10
Leg extensions: 3 sets of 10
A superset is simply two exercises performed back-to-back without any rest period. Generally speaking, the exercises should target opposing muscles, e.g. triceps and biceps, however this is by no means a strict rule – you could target the same area, e.g. hit the long and short heads of the biceps by doing hammer curls followed by preacher curls. You could also target completely different muscle groups, for example by supersetting deadlifts with bicep curls.
Supersets are an awesome training technique to use when you’re short on time, as you can fit in more exercises without needing to spend too much longer in the gym. They can also help to promote hypertrophy, because by moving straight onto another exercise instead of resting, we create a fatigued state, promoting the right biological and hormonal changes needed to encourage muscle growth.
A1 would be immediately followed by A2. Take a rest only once both exercises have been completed. This would be repeated for 3 sets, before moving on to superset B.
A1. Wide grip pull-ups 10 reps
A2. Press ups 10 reps
Repeat x 3, then move on to second superset
B1. Weighted front squat 8 reps
B2. Squat jumps 8 reps
Repeat x 3
You can also do tri sets, which are exactly like supersets, except you do three exercises back-to-back before resting.
Also known as the 10 sets method, German Volume Training is a staple training technique for body builders and Olympic lifters. Simply put, it is 10 sets of 10 reps of one exercise. Versions of this technique have been around since the 1940’s, but grew in popularity in the 70’s after being championed by Rolf Feser (German National weightlifting coach at the time) and later in the 90’s by Charles R. Poliquin (world-renowned strength coach).
For GVT, the chosen lift should be a compound movement that involves a number of different muscle groups. Examples include squats, bench presses or pull-ups. It’s a great way to pack on a lot of lean muscle in a relatively short period of time.
The goal of GVT is to complete ten sets of ten reps with the same weight. This is an important characteristic of GVT as the goal in this workout is to achieve volume (lots of sets at optimal weight). When selecting this weight, the correct method to calculate the exact weight required is to perform your 1 rep max in the chosen exercise. Once you know how much you can lift for 1 rep you then take that number and perform your GVT set at approximately 60-70% of your 1 rep max. As an example, let’s take the squat. If you are able to do 1 squat at 100kg (referred to as your 1 rep max), you would try squatting with 60kg in the GVT style. In the last few sets, you might not be able to get 10 reps in – that is perfectly OK. The idea is that as soon as you can do 10 reps of 10, you need to increase the weight by 4-5%. This will ensure that you make progress and keep getting stronger as you move on in your training.
There are three additional key points to remember when doing GVT, and these are:
You need to be strict with the amount of rest you take in between sets. Keep it to 60-70 seconds – use a stopwatch to stop yourself cheating!
For longer movements, like squats or chins, use a 4-0-2 tempo. This means lowering the weight in four seconds and then without a pause at the bottom, lift back up for 2 seconds. For shorter movements, like triceps extensions or curls, use a 3-0-2 tempo.
When starting out, it’s advised to do 1 GVT session per muscle group per week, and to schedule in plenty of rest days to allow those muscles to fully recover, as this sort of heavy training puts them under pretty intense strain.
Example (chest and back)
Bench press: 10 sets of 10 reps
Barbell bent over row: 10 sets 10 reps
Standing cable crossover: 3 sets of 10 reps
Close grip pull-down: 3 sets of 10 reps
Although you won’t be using GVT in your strength classes at Grow, you should be able to recognise that supersets and tri-sets play a big part in our signature classes! You’ll often be asked to perform sets of different exercises back-to-back without rest, before jumping on the rower to do a quick sprint. As you’ll know (or learn if you have yet to do a class with us), this is a great way to get your heart pumping and your muscles working hard.