By Bentz Tozer, Jr., B.S., CPT
A well-rounded exercise program includes exercises that work all the muscles in the body. What’s rarely mentioned is the importance of exercise sequence, or the order in which the exercises are performed and completed.
Strength-training in the correct order is crucial to maximizing results and getting the most from your workouts. Different training methods have different philosophies, but there are some general rules to keep in mind when applying proper exercise order.
So, what is the reason for these rules-of-thumb?
An article published in the journal Sports Medicine looked at research of both acute and chronic responses to exercise.
Acute responses occur during a workout (reps you can do), while chronic responses occur over time (muscle-building). It’s not a surprise to learn that you’ll be able to perform more repetitions of the exercises that are at the start of your workout, prior to fatigue. What was surprising is that the research also showed greater strength gains and muscular development with exercises done at the beginning of a workout and less progress with the exercises toward the end. The research showed that this was true for all the muscle groups in the body.
This is the reason that exercise order is the key to effective workouts. You need to train in the proper order to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself. If your goal is to improve your bench press, then you should bench at the start of your workout, before you do triceps extensions or shoulder presses. The movements you want to improve or accomplish the most need to be done first.
This also speaks to the importance of customized workouts. An exercise professional can work with you to create the best program for you based on your individual goals. Contact a professional to start maximizing your workouts today.
- Larger muscles should be trained before smaller muscles. Examples of this are chest before triceps or quadriceps before calf muscles.
- Compound exercises, which are exercises that involve more than one muscle group,should come before isolation exercises, which are exercises that work only one muscle.
An example of a compound exercise is the bench press, which works the chest, shoulders and triceps. An isolation-exercise example is a biceps curl, which works only the biceps.
- Free-weight exercises should be done before machine exercises. For example, squats before leg presses. The reason for this is tied into No. 2 listed above: free weights utilize several muscle groups at one time improving stabilization. They also force different areas of the body to work together as a unit. Machines allow for an isolation of a specific muscle or muscle group.
Be Well Tips
- Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.
- Meet with an exercise professional to customize your program.
- Train large muscles before small muscles.
- Perform compound exercises before isolation exercises.
- Free-weight exercises should be done before machine exercises.