Fitness Post – The Best Sequence of Exercises

I always write programs for my clients in a certain sequence and I haven’t changed it for many years because from my perspective it has logic behind it. I don’t mind being wrong as although I have exercised with resistances for over 50 years now, the more I know the less I know?

The sequence I use is I get them to warm up with core exercises, then leg exercises, then finish with upper body exercises. The Warm Up consists of dynamic Yoga movements and cool down with Static Yoga. So there actually five phases to their programs. But if they have a Circuit routine scheduled, the Warm Up and Cool Down phases would be the same, but the exercises within the circuit mostly consist of whole-body movements.

I don’t like dividing the body up into ‘body parts’ because that does not transpose into natural movement, but if I do divide it up this way to cater for their needs, I like to add in extra movement so that the exercise is closer to natural movement. So  as an example the exercise above is what I would consider an advanced Core exercise, but it also involves a lot of Upper Body muscles and a certain amount of work for the legs. You need a great deal of Core stability to perform the exercise properly and I would only give a client this exercise when they demonstrate complete core stability – in this case the prerequisite exercise would be the Bird Dog exercise from the hands and knees. But also they would have to demonstrate strength in Press Ups to cope with the stress placed upon the arms and shoulders with this Extended Bird Dog exercise. 

I wanted to describe this because the sequence I use is multifaceted in that the pattern is scheduled over time and experience, not just through individual programs. Too many people don’t put any thought into this concept and try to start with advanced exercises that they cannot do properly and there is no pattern of progress to their overall program.

Now, as to the reasons I use the sequence I do in singular programs are –

  • I get them to do their Core exercises first because when most people do them last, if they are tired from the rest of the program and will drop these exercises. And with the type of core exercises I use they tend to work the whole body and ready it for more dynamic exercises later in the workout. If you do core exercises properly you have to squeeze your core muscles to maintain stability – which is what you should do for all other exercises in your program – so this reminds people to do this.
  • The second in the sequence is the leg exercises. I would like a dollar for the many times I have seen a weight trainer come into the gym and lie  down on the Bench Press Bench and pump out numerous repetitions of a comparatively light resistance as the first thing they do. Personally I couldn’t think of anything more boring or wrong with this! So most leg exercises also bring in many other muscle groups and the exercises I schedule quite often have upper body movements added to them as well. For example here you could add a light Forward Dumbbell Raise to the Step Up exercise as it gives better balance and adds a more dynamic element to the movement. The photo below is another example of such an exercise where it is a Side Lunge and holding the Dumbbell this way adds some static arm strength
  • The third part of the sequence are the upper body exercises as they use smaller muscle groups that are usually well warmed up by this stage of the routine. Again, I like to use upper body exercises that also use other muscle groups of the body. So any variation of the Press Up is basically a more dynamic Front (or even side) Plank, using core stability and the leg muscles. A more advanced upper body exercise that uses multiple muscle groups would be a Lying Single Arm Press on a Swiss (Fitness) Ball (as in photo below).

This is how I see the best sequence of exercises to be in a resistance routine. I always start with the reasons someone wants to do a resistance program. Once that is decided, this sequence naturally falls into place for me. The problem with most people is they really don’t know what their specific goals are, hence their limited success?

Always ask yourself the question ‘ Why am I doing this program’ …and the more specific you are in your answer, the easier it will be in achieving your goals.

P.s. May I be forgiven using mostly women in these photos as I try to have balance in using both sexes in them. For some reason there are better and more numerous photos containing females on the Internet…I don’t know why…..?

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