Effects of Exercise Order on Upper-Body Muscle Activation and Exercise Performance

With the purpose of manipulating training stimuli, several techniques have been employed to resistance training. Two of the most popular techniques are the pre-exhaustion (PRE) and priority system (PS). PRE involves exercising the same muscle or muscle group to the point of muscular failure using a single-joint exercise immediately before a multi-joint exercise (e.g., peck-deck followed by chest press). On the other hand, it is often recommended that the complex exercises should be performed first in a training session (i.e., chest press before peck-deck), a technique known as PS. The purpose of the present study was to compare upper-body muscleactivation, total repetitions (TR), and total work (TW) during PRE and PS. Thirteen men (age 25.08 +/- 2.58 years) with recreational weight-training experience performed 1 set of PRE and 1 set of PS in a balanced crossover design. The exercises were performed at the load obtained in a 10 repetition maximum (10RM) test. Therefore, chest press and peck-deck were performed with the same load during PRE and PS. Electromyography (EMG) was recorded from the triceps brachii (TB), anterior deltoids, and pectoralis major during both exercises. According to the results, TW and TR were not significantly different (p > 0.05) between PRE and PS. Likewise, during the peck-deck exercise, no significant (p > 0.05) EMG change was observed between PRE and PS order. However, TB activity was significantly (p < 0.05) higher when chest press was performed after the peck-deck exercise (PRE). Our findings suggest that performing pre-exhaustion exercise is no more effective in increasing the activation of the prefatigued muscles during the multi-joint exercise. Also, independent of the exercise order (PRE vs. PS), TW is similar when performing exercises for the same muscle group. In summary, if the coach wants to maximize the athlete performance in 1 specific resistance exercise, this exercise should be placed at the beginning of the training session.


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