Do We Have to Follow the Order of the Exercises in a Training Program?
It is very important to follow the order in which exercises are to be performed in a workout session. The logic behind the order of the exercises was thought out and adjusted by your private trainer. By following the suggested sequence, you will be sure to perform an effective, balanced, and safe workout.
A question of safety
As a trainer, I have the tendency to put harder exercises that require more balance and stability at the beginning, such as the following exercises: the squat, and the deadlift. Because energy levels are optimal at this point of the session, these exercises will be performed in a safer and more effective manner.
At the end of a session, I usually put exercises that engage stabilizing, lumbar, and abdominal muscles. Because these muscles were already worked during the first exercises, they will be slightly tired at the end of the session. Of course, we would rather have them fresh and rested to perform exercises that require balance, and this is why we strengthen them in a more specific manner at the end of the session.
A question of effectiveness
Improving muscular strength is one of the main roles of weightlifting. Strength gains are generally more pronounced for exercises performed at the beginning of a session (1). So, according to your training objectives, the “most important” exercises will be placed at the beginning.
Exercises considered as “most important” are those that involve several articulations and muscles. We think in particular of the squat, step up, bench press, etc. These are functional exercises that can be imitated during daily activities or the practice of a sport.
What should I do when the equipment I need is being used by someone else?
If the equipment you wish to use is unavailable, you can either wait, or skip to the next exercise and come back later. However, changing the order of the exercises too often is not ideal. For a single session, there are few risks that this will harm your training. On the contrary, if you do this on the long term your results could be lacking or different from what you were expecting. Do not forget that the order was established to work your muscles in an effective, balanced, and safe manner.
By Mathieu Rousseau
1. Simão R et al. (2012). Exercise order in resistance training. Sports Med. 1;42(3):251-65.