When is it best to apply the principle of initial muscle fatigue? Firstly, this is not a method for beginners. Not because they don't need it, but mainly because they don’t know how to apply it. The principle of initial muscle fatigue - created by bodybuilding father Joe Weider - is mostly used by people with a longer training experience as an additional stimulus to develop specific muscles.

Classic bodybuilding techniques

The principle of initial muscle fatigue is one of THE classic methods of bodybuilding training created and pioneered in the 1970s. However, just because it is not a sports novelty, which does not mean that it is not worth reaching for. We owe Joe Weider not only the famous "6 Weider" method, i.e., painstaking training of the abdominal muscles, but also several dozen principles on which bodybuilding was based half a century ago and which still bring great results today.

Why is it worth "preliminary muscle fatigue"?

When we perform a multi-joint exercise - squat with a barbell, barbell press on a bench (chest), deadlift, or barbell press over the head (shoulders) for example, we activate a whole group of larger and smaller muscles rather than just one individual muscle. Most often, we get tired and limited when smaller muscles refuse to obey, and larger one (e.g., quadriceps) would still be able to work for a while. So, to maximize smaller companion muscles in a multi-joint heavy-load exercise, you must first tire that large muscle with a single-joint isolated exercise in which only it will be worked.

When does it make sense to use this method?

  • When you feel that one of your larger muscle groups is developing slowly and that for several weeks you have not felt much progress either in terms of the appearance of the muscle or in terms of strength during multi-joint exercises with high loads, now might be time to consider this method.
  • Alternatively, it can be useful when you are particularly interested in developing a specific muscle group, because you have been neglecting it so far, or you are trying to achieve specific bodybuilding goals.
  • When you are just looking for a new training stimulus.

However, it should be remembered that training based on this method of initial muscle fatigue should not ever last longer than a few weeks. It also requires longer rest period for regeneration. You absolutely cannot train a given muscle group in this way more often than every 4.5 days. Using this training method as part of your overall training cycle will boil it down to a few workouts in total. Doing this should have a noticeable effect.

Why is this not recommended for beginners?

In short because they won't benefit from it. When starting training for the first time, any form of training is a sufficient stimulus for the development of the body. We call this novice gains. It is far better to leave this more advanced and targeting approach for later, when the progress will naturally slow. The second reason is one of experience. To start a multi-joint exercise with a heavy load and a tired main muscle, you need to be executing that exercise with excellent form, otherwise, you could end up injuring yourself quickly.

How does it look in practice, i.e., the method of initial muscle fatigue in the training of individual muscle groups?


Most people start training this muscle group with an exercise bench, dumbbells and go for a classic bench press or one of its variants. Later it is common to add flyovers and possibly other variations. Let's start with a fly on a bench, machine, or gate (with the help of lift lines). Only the main muscle is supposed to work here. Perform several reps of one or two such exercises and then try pressing the barbell or dumbbells while lying on the bench. You’ll immediately notice how much harder that is.


Instead of starting with pull-ups or deadlifts, first try some lateral pull-down exercises. It is worth noting that the typical pull of the lift bar to the nape or chest in a sitting position does not solve the problem, because it is an exercise that also strains the biceps, and we are only trying to target the back muscles in isolation. After such an exercise, we proceed to pull-ups or deadlifts or other multi-joint exercises involving the muscles of the back.

The legs

One of the most difficult leg exercises is squats with a barbell. Before we start with them, target the quadriceps muscles in accordance with the discussed principle. Machine leg extensions are a good method for this. The thighs will feel this exercise quite quickly because they are not supported by other muscles. After a few reps, once you feel it in your legs we can start squatting.


Before we start pressing a barbell or dumbbells, let's wear the shoulder muscles out a bit. The best way to do this is with lateral raises (with dumbbells or with the help of a machine / lift). It is important in this first exercise to isolate the muscle properly and perform it precisely.

As demonstrated, this method of initial muscle fatigue is not focused on any particular exercises but is about the surprising sequence of their execution and the tiring of the main muscle within a group. However, as discussed this is a technique for people who are well versed in training and aware of their abilities.