Exercise order for your weight training routine is flexible, but there are some suggested guidelines to follow that can help you achieve better results. Your goals and other factors may influence the recommended sequence of exercises. Your daily workouts, however, should always start with a warm up.
General and Specific Warm Up
Start with 10-15 minutes of cardio activity to increase your heart rate and warm your muscles. Then perform a general, full body stretching routine. You may prefer to stretch a bit before the cardio, particularly if you feel tight or have muscle soreness, but do most of your stretching after cardio.
Just before each weight lifting exercise, do more specific warm up activities through a full range of motion in preparation for more intense work. Stretch the major muscles involved and perform light repetitions before you increase your weight load.
As a general protocol, perform weight lifting exercises in the following order:
1. Free weight-bearing, whole body exercises that require the greatest coordination of multiple joint actions (e.g., Olympic lifts).
2. Free weight-bearing exercises that place stress on the whole body (e.g., squats).
3. Exercises that involve larger muscles (e.g., bench press).
4. Exercises that involve smaller muscles and single joint actions (e.g., wrist curls, machines that target specific muscles).
You may have some particular preferences in your order of exercises. For example:
*You may prefer to alternate leg, arm, and core exercises to allow one muscle group to recover while you work another muscle group regardless of muscle size or number of joints actions involved.
*If you are performing Olympic lifts, you would typically perform those lifts that require the most coordination first (e.g., power clean, snatch). However, if your goal is to improve your pull from the floor, you may perform targeted exercises for the pull phase first.
*Your goals may prompt what appears to be a departure from the recommended exercise order, but the order may truly be aligned with your purpose for training with weights.
For example, if your goal is to improve muscular endurance to speed up your “kick” at the end of a distance run, you may want to perform certain explosive or whole body exercises when you are tired in order to match the demands of a race. However, you would not likely be lifting heavy weights, so there is little chance of an injury. In any case, use good judgment–safety is always a priority!
After a vigorous workout, it is advisable to cool down by taking a few moments to stretch major muscle groups. You can also stretch later in the day and in the morning to help facilitate recovery.
Follow these guidelines for exercise order, but allow yourself latitude in light of your training goals, preferences, and safety considerations.
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