6 ways to Improve your workout Part 2

Improve your workout

3. Order of fitness Exercises

The sequence of exercises within a workout is never mentioned in media, but is in fact important.  You can have a list of exercises and attack it however you’d like, but there are guidelines for a more efficient routine.  Just like starting a routine with a large muscle group and moving to the small, there are other aspects of sequencing your workout.

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There are many factors, but we’ll the average situation.  The reason we start with bench press or squat over pec flies or leg extensions is due to the fatigue factor.  When these exercises are completed, the lifter usually shoots for pure strength and wants to do the most strenuous exercises first.  The muscles need to be fresh in order to lift as much weight as possible.  Obviously, the quadriceps (front of the leg) are used in the squat, and if they fatigue more quickly than the rest of the leg, then there isn’t much that can be further accomplished.  However, if your main goal is endurance, then by all means “pre-exhauste ” those muscles.  Be careful though.  Technique tends to suffer first when doing this.  We also want to start with the exercises that involve the most joints (multi-joint exercises).  For instance, bench press includes movements in the shoulder and elbow whereas pec flies solely involve the shoulder and are considered a supplemental exercise.

The fatigue factor is also why abdominals are always completed last.  They are needed for absolutely everything.  Your stomach should always be tight, even when you’re not in the gym.  They are essential for posture, balance, running, lifting, jumping, and the list goes on.  The point is that while exercising, your abdominals supply power to the rest of the body.  If your abs give out while squatting, your spine is at risk of serious injury that can cause lifelong problems.  This is also why abdominal exercises are done after “leg day”.

Finally, what’s first, cardio or resistance training?  The answer depends on your goals.  What is more important, burning fat or gaining muscle?  Doing cardio first will allow a head start in tapping into that fat system, then resistance training becomes supplemental for your endurance.  Meanwhile, doing the opposite will allow for muscle growth and pre-fatigue the body for the cardio.  Just remember, cardio causes the muscles to become smaller and more efficient.  So if your goal is to become bigger and more lean, you may want to take a look at your eating habits instead.


4. Technique and Range of Motion

Technique is my biggest pet peeve in the gym. When heavy weights are lifted, we tend to give ourselves a mechanical advantage so the repetition can be completed. Don’t be nice to yourself; the reason you are in the gym is to challenge your muscles. This doesn’t mean increasing the weight beyond your capabilities.  Proper technique will make resistance training difficult enough.  Why skip out on the toughest part?

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The concept of proper technique is easier said than done.  You really want to isolate muscles and make training tough.  A “real” pull up involves entirely straightening the arms, then pulling your chin above the bar to complete the range of motion.  We have the least amount of leverage when our arms are straight.  Conversely, correct technique for the bench press includes lowering the weight and bringing your elbows to 90 degrees, changing the momentum with pure strength, and pushing back to starting position. The bar should not bounce off of the chest during a bench press. This is dangerous for the reason of fracturing your sternum, but it is also improper technique since it helps the chest immensely in putting up that bar.  When using heavy weight, the joint needs to be protected and once again, we have leverage within the muscles past 90 degrees. The same idea applies to squats.  Protect the joints and bring the hips and knees to 90 degrees.

On any bench, there are five points of contact: head, shoulders, butt, and the left and right foot. If one of these body parts are not stationed, the weight is too heavy and technique has been compromised.  Your entire body should be contracting to create tension in the muscles.  In the end, we are working the muscles within the body, no matter how much weight we use.

Final 2 next week!

By: Zak Goodman BS, CSCS
Exercise specialist

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