Choosing the Best Order for your Exercises

Learn how to train yourself! A common theme in my videos is to empower you to take the wheel in your own fitness program. Today we’ll cover the best order to complete your exercises – there should always be a method to your madness!

First comes the warmup. Warming up is crucial NOT ONLY to avoid injury, but to maximize the progress you gain from a workout. That means skipping your warmup will LIMIT your progress!

Let’s break it down. When you go hard without first warming up, waste products are accumulated in your muscles faster than they can be eliminated. This gives you a pumped, sore feeling and leads to you being capable of less overall work in that specific workout.

Remember: Soreness alone is NOT a valid indicator of progress!

Had you warmed up efficiently in that same scenario, your body would have reached a state where it was capable of eliminating the waste products almost as fast as they build up, leading to a longer, more productive workout with less soreness and maximal progress.

So by now the warmup should be a crucial part of your workout. Let’s get to the order of your exercises!

The most effective way to order your exercises is from compound movements (Large muscle groups – more than one muscle) down to Isolation movements (single muscle exercises) A simple way to put it, is from “Bigger to Smaller” in terms of muscle activation. Yet another way to look at this same concept is from “Inner to Outer” musculature.

EXAMPLE 1: Squats would come before calf raises because squats affect the innermost musculature while calves are peripheral (outer). Squats affect Bigger (more) muscles than calf raises. Squats are compound exercises (using a large group of muscles) whereas calf raises are considered isolations (single muscle exercises).

EXAMPLE 2: This same example can be repeated with a chest press or row (compounds) versus an arm exercise (isolation). The chest and back are near the center of the body, while the arms are peripheral. The chest and back are literally larger and chest presses/rows are compound exercises, whereas bicep curls or triceps extensions are isolation exercises since they predominantly affect a single muscle.

Core exercises can be sprinkled throughout your entire workout to keep the pace up, but if you really want to blast your core, I recommend burning out at the END of your workout. If you tire out your core early in your workout and then try to perform a full body movement, your core’s stability is compromised which can be dangerous.

So by now we know that after our warmup, full body exercises come first followed by the next “biggest” exercise, on down the list until the smallest, exercise. There are specific reasons to forego this structure, but unless you’re a hardcore athlete this format is recommended for the best results.

Now that you know how best to order your exercises, get the most out of your next workout by planning ahead! Save your smaller exercises for last and conquer the biggest, most challenging and demanding exercises first. Try this format out in your next workout!