One of the fundamental principles of exercise prescription, specifically resistance training, is the principle of exercise order. Which exercises do I do first? Which do I do last? Does exercise order really matter? From personal observations in the weight room, it would seem to many it doesn't matter. However, if you want an effective exercise program you must consider the order of the exercises.
As a general rule you should perform complex multi-joint exercises first in your
exercise routine while you are fresh. Typically, multi-joint movements require more
skill and energy to perform. Such exercises include squats, deadlifts, bench
presses, and pull-ups. Nothing annoys me more than seeing someone perform
bicep curls until their head explodes, then go right into lat pulldowns (notice, lat
pulldowns, not pull-ups?anyone who does pull-ups knows better than to work
their biceps beforehand).
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Such is the case when using the pre-
exhaustion technique. For example, perform a set of dumbbell flys to exhaust the
pectorals then going directly to a set of bench press. In this case, however, you are
pre-exhausting the larger muscle group, not the smaller muscle group.
Since single-joint movements typically require less skill to perform and are not as
taxing on the body, perform them after multi-joint exercises. Performing single-
joint movements at the end of a workout session will ensure a more efficient and
effective routine. Of course, there will be exceptions, which should be addressed on
an individual basis.
Note: Agility drills & Olympic lifts have been excluded from the discussion of
exercise order. However, typically agility drills & Olympic lifts, respectively, should
be performed before multi-joint exercises.
Chad Anderson, CSCS operates a personal training, fitness programming, and
consulting business while also holding a full-time position as a senior personal trainer
at a commercial health club. He holds a BS degree in exercise science with a minor in
nutrition and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. You
can visit his website at http://www.afitsolutions.com