On Feb. 21, 2022, BarBend and Generation Iron released the first episode of their interview series featuring author and exercise physiologist Dr. Jim Stoppani. The series aims to break down critical functional aspects of training, techniques, and science behind bodybuilding and strength.
According to Stoppani’s website, he earned his doctorate in exercise physiology with a minor in biochemistry from the University of Connecticut. He served as a postdoctoral research fellow in the John B. Pierce Laboratory and Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Yale University School of Medicine. He is the creator of JYM Supplement Science. During the interview, moderated by Vlad Yudin, Stoppani explained what contralateral training and pre-exhaust training are and their effectiveness based on four peer-reviewed studies (two acute and two long-term). Check out the 12-minute, 31-second-long first of 10 episodes, courtesy of Generation Iron‘s YouTube channel:
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The first topic of discussion is contralateral training or the contralateral strength training effect, which the Journal of Applied Physiology defines as “the phenomenon whereby training one side of the body increases the strength of muscles on the other side of the body.” (1) According to Dr. Stoppani, when performing an exercise with one limb, such as a single-arm biceps curl, the brain still sends signals to both biceps.
Those nerves are still getting impulse. The heart’s pumping blood through the entire body, including the non-training arm.
The benefits, such as “the nutrients and hormones,” are still gained by the arm not performing the exercise. However, the untrained arm is not getting the benefits of mechanical stimulation as it is not performing physical movement.
All that adds up to maintaining strength and muscle mass.
While contralateral training won’t prevent muscle atrophy or strength loss, it will lead to less of both than not performing any contralateral training at all. The contralateral limb is expected to acquire about half of the strength gained by the trained limb. (2)
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When diving into the topic of pre-exhaust training, Dr. Stoppani notes that many lifters know how to perform pre-exhaust training — single-joint movement followed by a multi-joint movement — but don’t necessarily know why it’s beneficial. Dr. Stoppani clarifies that this kind of training will not garner any additional stimulation to the targeted muscle group as the goal is to exhaust them.
For example, if a lifter performs chest flyes before hitting the bench press and there is less mechanical activity in the chest during the bench press because they were pre-exhausted, then pre-exhaust training was practical despite no changes in strength. In this example, the goal with pre-exhaust is that the pecs were fully exhausted rather than the triceps or a supporting muscle group. Pre-exhaust removes fatigue of a muscle group other than the targeted muscle group as a limiting factor.
If a lifter has weak triceps that will fatigue before the pecs when performing the bench press, they are unlikely to stimulate their chest with that movement adequately. However, by utilizing pre-exhaust, they can exhaust their pecs before their triceps fatigue to get that adequate stimulation. Despite that benefit, lifters should be aware that pre-exhaust training has been shown to decrease total training volume compared to traditional resistance training. (3)(4)
Episodes in this interview series will release on subsequent Mondays on Generation Iron‘s YouTube channel. Episode two’s scheduled release date is Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.
- Contralateral effects of unilateral strength training: evidence and possible mechanisms | Journal of Applied Physiology. (2022). Journal Of Applied Physiology. Retrieved from https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00531.2006#:~:text=The%20phenomenon%20whereby%20training%20one,terms%20have%20a%20broader%20use.
- Carroll, T., Herbert, R., Munn, J., Lee, M., & Gandevia, S. (2006). Contralateral effects of unilateral strength training: evidence and possible mechanisms. Journal Of Applied Physiology, 101(5), 1514-1522. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00531.2006
- Fisher, J., Carlson, L., Steele, J., & Smith, D. (2014). The effects of pre-exhaustion, exercise order, and rest intervals in a full-body resistance training intervention. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, And Metabolism, 39(11), 1265-1270. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2014-0162
- Trindade, T., Prestes, J., Neto, L., Medeiros, R., Tibana, R., & de Sousa, N. et al. (2019). Effects of Pre-exhaustion Versus Traditional Resistance Training on Training Volume, Maximal Strength, and Quadriceps Hypertrophy. Frontiers In Physiology, 10. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.01424
Featured image courtesy of Jim Stoppani