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Train To Gain: Order in the Gym

Exercise sequence makes a difference.

Q: How important is exercise sequence? Should I try doing an isolation exercise before my compound movements for a preexhaustion effect?

A: The order in which you do your exercises is very important. The bodyparts you work earliest in your workout get the most benefit. The exception is cardio, which you do with considerably less resistance and which acts as a warmup for the hard weight work to come.

As for individual exercises, they’re also very important. I prefer doing the heaviest compound exercise first, the so-called shaping exercise second and the exercise for augmenting the pump last. Using chest as an example, do bench presses first, incline dumbbell presses second and pulley crossovers last. That approach is most effective for stimulating strength and growth simultaneously.

I’m not a big fan of preexhaustion, in which you do an isolation exercise followed by a big compound movement’for example, leg extensions followed by squats or triceps pressdowns before dips.

To fend off boredom and get a new growth spurt, you may want to try supersets or tri-sets, but keep the exercise order as I’ve suggested. One last point: Don’t change your workout too often. After training myself and others for almost 60 years, I’m convinced that most people change their workouts far too quickly. IM

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