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July 17, 2014

Strength Training: What Exercises Should I Do First?

strength training
strength training

One thing many beginners who start a resistance or strength training program sometimes fail to consider is the sequence of the exercises they’ve chosen for themselves. Should certain exercises be performed or certain muscle groups be exercised before others? And, the answer to those questions is most certainly “yes”.

To maximize your results you should give some thought to the sequence of your strength training exercises. When done properly strength training is a stimulus for the production of growth hormone and testosterone. This hormonal stimulation improves muscle growth, strength, and recovery. Stimulation of growth hormone and testosterone occurs when exercising the larger muscle groups.

Just remember this when developing your workout for the day. The more demanding or strenuous exercises should be performed before lesser demanding exercises. This will allow for stimulation of growth hormone and testosterone which will then maximize your efforts on the less demanding exercises too.

Therefore:

  • Exercise bigger muscles before smaller.
  • Perform compound or multi-joint exercises before isolation (one joint) exercises.
  • Perform exercises involving free weights before exercises using weight training machines.

So what does this mean in practice?

If we use the legs as an example you will want to exercise your quads and hamstrings (bigger muscles) before you exercise your calves (smaller muscles).  You will also want to do squats, a multi-joint exercise (knees, hips, and ankles) before you do knee extension exercises (knee only).

You would also want to do squats using free weights which involves more balance and body control and activation of more muscles including the core before squats using a machine,

But Warm Up First

The importance of warm-up is overlooked and it’s one area that I sometimes neglect, too. We think of warm up as being important in reducing injury, but we might be better off thinking of it as a step to maximize your strength training efforts. Warm up prepares the muscles to receive more blood flow (oxygen and nutrients), increases their ability to accept and respond to stress or load, and improves the rate and intensity at which a muscle can contract.

A short session of cardiovascular exercise (stationary cycle, treadmill, or stair climber) and calisthenics can be performed for a warm up. But, probably the best warm up before strength training is to warm up with the weights themselves using low loads and hitting each body part until adequately warmed up.

 

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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