Max Deadlift and the Preexhaustion Principle

My 4-Faced Onnit Mace

It's week 3 of my journey to a 405 lb. deadlift, (starting from 265, if you missed the first part of this, you can read it here.) and while the deadlift poundage has improved, I seem to be weaker in other areas.

Maybe this is my nervous system telling me to stop sprinting so much with the dog, maybe its the 100 degree heat, I don't know.

I train on with careful attention to how my body is feeling, pushing just enough, slowing down/stopping when necessary.

Today, however, I felt fairly recovered. This, despite the fact that I've been working out everyday. A good sign.

I like to think of it as an intensity wave. You don't always have to stop completely, but you have to slow down, recover, adjust.

Anyway, enough of the banter, today's workout reminded me how much fun swinging clubs and maces can be.

It also reminded me of a very 'bodybuilding-esque' training principle called pre-exhaustion. Basically, fatiguing a muscle group with one exercise (usually something that isolates the muscle group) before doing another (usually compound) exercise.

The result should be obvious, pre-exhausting makes the second, compound exercise, more difficult.

You can probably see where I'm going with this, so let's lay it out:


BW Box (chair) Squats: 2x10-20

Pushups/Sun Salutations: 2x10ish

*(I was already up and moving for a while before I started, thus the brief warm-up)


3 rounds of,

  • 15# Mace swings (10-2's and 360's, for those who care.)

*25# on 3rd round.
*Probably some 15# clubs in here as well.

  • 1 hand and 2-hand KB swings @55# for 20ish reps. (At some point you don't care, you either can't stop swinging or you have to put the damn thing down.)

  • Dbl KB Deadlifts @70# each x 6-8.

There may have been an extra round of one of the exercises thrown in, but I'm not sure. When in doubt, I tend to do one more of something rather than feel like I shorted it.

That's it, that was the workout. But it was more than enough. It got my heart beating out of my chest, provided enough resistance to make me push a little (not too hard today) and it sent me into that Zen-like afterglow, the euphoric calm you get after a good workout.

The Wrap Up

So the bottom line is, although I'm feeling weaker than usual (haha! making fun of myself,) performing the KB swings before deadlifting the heavier 'bells made 140# feel more like 200…ok let's say 185.

This principle could have been further tested by doing something more lumbar/glute/hamstring specific, such as good mornings or hyperextensions. However, if I had chosen that exercise, I don't think the KB swings would have been a good idea. No injuries necessary, thanks.

So give pre-exhaustion a try on your next workout, or revisit it if it's been a while. If you do it right, your muscles are working just as hard and the results may surprise you.

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