Pre Fatigue and the History of Strength


Pre Fatigue and the History of Strength

To understand the science and theme of this block, we need to start with Strength History and look at some pictures of two men in particular. 

The names of these men are Arthur Jones and Vince Gironda. If you ever read anything about Jones or Gironda, you’d know they would hate this blog post and say it is the stupidest thing they ever read. 

But with all due respect, Arthur and Vince, you died along time ago and you have no idea what you’re talking about. So shut up. 

That’s what I would think they would want us to say to that. 

Alright, let’s look at some pictures.

Arthur Jones

Arthur Jones

Vince Gironda

Vince Gironda


Who are these mysterious men, living life to the fullest?

They are the ones who made this whole thing up. Like literally made the fitness industry up. And they’ve influenced what we do weekly in the weight room. 

Arthur Jones was the founder and creator of Nautilus, a wildlife documentarian, and renaissance man. 

Vince Gironda owned Vince’s Gym in Hollywood, CA, was a prolific author, and trainer to several Hollywood stars and bodybuilders. 

The theme of this next block is pre-fatigue

You may be familiar with this style or have done it with us at Allegiate before. But we would be remiss to not pay some respects to the men that created this form of training and give credit where credit is due. We taking a more modern approach to pre-fatigue. But for context, we want to dive into why Arthur and Vince did what they did. And how they came up with this concept. 

For the record, Arthur and Vince did not collaborate on this. They probably hated each other. 

Let’s start with Vince Gironda.

Vince was an accomplished bodybuilder himself and really focussed his efforts on using different angles and vectors in training to create a really classic V taper (the torso being wider than waste). He preferred isolation exercises that targeted the muscles and helped get that v-taper look.

However, there would be times where he would leverage compound/multi-joint movements for efficiency purposes. This led to the development of circuits – or super-setting exercises – which led to the creation of pre-fatiguing a muscle prior to a compound movement to “stress” the correct muscles that really give that signature V taper look. 

Arthur jones was different. 

He was a trailblazer. He was a businessman first and foremost. He set out to recreate an image that he could market to promote his products. This is an important distinction. After Nautilus came in, bodybuilding changed from the classic symmetry/angle look of the 50s/60s of Reeves/Draper to the bigger is better look of Mentzer/Haney/Yates. 

Arthur created and pushed the concept of HIT, the original High-Intensity Training. In HIT, you do one set to failure. A true failure completely exhausting a muscle group. This approach led to the development of things like tempo, different contraction types by going to complete concentric, isometric, failure (see picture), and finally pre-fatigue.

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Jones went “ham” in this direction.

He made machines that could create a “true” superset and completely take a muscle group to failure. He even went so far as to make dual machines like a lat pullover/lat pulldown or leg extension/leg press combination to minimize transition and truly take that muscle group to failure. 

There are machines that actually took the grip out of it. This way grip wasn’t limiting factor for specific muscle groups like the chest, lats, shoulders.

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So what happened to these concepts or machines?

  1. Bill Kraemer, one of the leading researchers in Exercise Science, went on a mission to disprove one set to failure as a superior means to training. Which he successfully did.

  2. Machines simply are limited to one or two exercises (effective ones) and take a lot of space so they are not a good decision financially. 

  3. Functional/compound (ground-based)/multi joint exercises are superior from the efficacy and efficiency standpoint. 

  4. These men were geniuses, but flawed. They pushed the industry into what it is now. But ego and mistakes brought their careers to an end

Can we leverage these concepts today? 

Absolutely! The premise is simple: target a muscle area with an isolation exercise prior to multi-joint exercise. Hypertrophy – building muscle – comes down to creating local acidity. Meaning deplete energy reserves (ATP/PCR/Glucose) in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment. 

We increase the rate of building muscle by targeting movements, angles, joint involvements and using different times under tensions. 

For nostalgia, we wish we could train on these epic, space-wasting muscle machines. But we can make up for lack of them by knowing how to isolate muscle groups and that muscle group’s corresponding joint action. 

For example, the lat is a biarticulate joint, meaning it crosses two joints. If we stabilize origin and shorten that muscle group by flexing the shoulder we can create tension pre-fatigues the muscle group. The next aspect is applying that pre-tension or depletion to a multi-joint exercise like pull-ups. This brings more motor units and therefore muscle fibers to further tax that muscle group. 

A major component to consider is the rate of fatigue in contraction type. This means concentric will fatigue faster than isometric and isometric will fatigue faster than eccentric. In most compound movements going to true concentric failure is hard from a safety perspective. But we can offset that by using multiple sets and getting motor unit recruitment and the same effect by the increased number of sets and judging loads off concentric abilities.

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cody romness