Q&A: Exercise Order And Performance

Question:

Three of us started doing high intensity training together twenty five days ago (five workouts). We do the “Big Five” routine inspired by Body by Science and one of your books.

  1. Leg Press
  2. Pull Down
  3. Chest Press
  4. Seated Row
  5. Shoulder Press

In that order. (Thinking legs first to get the best growth response?)

We have all been increasing the resistance every workout on leg press and pull down and a little on chest press and seated row,  but none of us are doing better on the shoulder press. I feel really nauseated after the seated row so I need a couple minutes before even doing the shoulder press.

Do we need to change the order of the exercises or just keep going this way? Just wondering why we are gaining in everything except shoulders. Any advice on this ?

Answer:

Every exercise you perform fatigues both the targeted muscles (local fatigue) and your body as a whole (systemic fatigue), increasing the difficulty of subsequent exercises. Because of this you can handle relatively more resistance and will appear to improve performance more quickly on the first few exercises of your workouts than the last, but you have to evaluate your progress on each exercise in the context of the entire workout.

Drew Baye on the MedX Overhead PressAs you progress on an exercise, becoming more skilled at inroading efficiently and using greater resistance, the demand it places on your body increases. This is one of the reasons more advanced trainees require a reduction in workout volume. This means you start every subsequent exercise with greater local and systemic fatigue, reducing the amount of resistance or repetitions you are able to perform compared to if you started each exercise completely rested. If you are moving quickly between exercises and progressing steadily on the first few of your workout just being able to consistently match your previous resistance and reps in good form indicates improvement in the later exercises.

If you aren’t sure about this, occasionally varying the order of exercises may give you a better idea of how much you are improving on the exercises you normally perform later in your workout. Keep in mind, however, that how you perform each exercise is far more important than how much weight you use or for how many repetitions or how much time under load. It is your intensity – the effort you put into each exercise – that matters most.

Assuming you are able to maintain a high level of effort for all five exercises doing leg press first probably won’t make a big difference in growth response due to acute hormonal changes, but because of how demanding it is when done properly some people find it helps to start there.

Being nauseated after a few exercises is normal when starting out if you are training hard. Give yourself just enough rest between exercises that you don’t feel like you will vomit. As your conditioning improves you will be able to reduce the rest between the later exercises without experiencing it as much.

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