Frequently Asked Questions

Hi Bob. No, and it's not a matter of preference, nor of being a "fan" or "non-fan". "Pre-exhaustion" is based on the incorrect assumption that fatigue builds muscle. Certainly, fatigue plans a small role in muscle growth, but if fatigue played a major role, then marathoners would have massive leg muscles. Muscle growth is primarily due to fiber recruitment, and that is much more related to percentage of maximum effort. The best way to train for muscle growth is by doing enough "volume" (sets) of 95% maximum effort, using weight that allows between 6 and 8 reps, with enough rest in between sets to reduce the exhaustion from the previous set (i.e., the opposite of pre-exhaustion), so that the next set is not compromised either in a muscle's strength or its ability to optimally contract.

Thank you for your response. But, we are still left with the age old question, when is enough enough. I could see someone with unlimited time spending hours training by just waiting until they felt rested enough to do another set. More is better seems to be an accepted philosophy with most people. Lack of progress for most seems to be I did do enough or I did not train hard enough. I think the ability to concentrate, stay focused is the best way to get the most out of a set.

This can be a lengthy conversation. There is much nuance to be considered. It is not a question that can be answered, perfectly, in a paragraph. In fact, it cannot even be answered very well in writing. Even training partners who witness me training, using a percentage of effort that is "enough", are not informed as well as I'd like for them to be, because they are not feeling what I'm feeling. Still, a lengthy conversation, combined with witnessing proper intensity, is much better than expecting to have your question be answered in the form of a paragraph.

People tend to ask “how many sets” and “how many reps”, but those questions cannot be answered simply, because they fail to identify the ideal percentage of max effort, the rest time between sets, the frequency of workouts, and the age and health of the person doing the exercise. If people don’t get the results they “expect” (want), they often make the incorrect assumption that they didn’t do enough, as you said. But it’s not a matter of quantity, although that is one factor. There needs to be a balance of the correct quantity, WITH the correct amount of intensity (not measured as “fatigue” or “burn” or even “pump”). It’s a very particular type of intensity, that involves range of motion, deliberate-ness, rep speed, amount of weight, number of reps, and amount of effort (measured as a percentage of max effort / proximity to failure). Anyone addressing this question that ignores these factors, either hasn’t read the research literature, or is oblivious to it all and has just been lucky in whatever success they’ve achieved.