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Order in the Workout!




The idea of designing your own workout can be overwhelming…even for some personal trainers. The go-to option for many people is to grab a workout off the internet or out of a magazine (does anyone read these anymore?) that looks good, interests them, and provides a spark of motivation to perform.

BUT…is this the best approach? 

If you just want to get in some “exercise,” then it’s fine. But if you want to “TRAIN” (yes, there is a difference), you’ll need a better method. 

The Ingredients in a Tasty Workout

Before anything else, I pride myself in being a master of program design. And when I look at a workout, there are a number of variables that will determine whether I deem it a quality TRAINING program or just a potluck of exercise. 

Variables such as:

Exercise selection
Rep Ranges
Rep Speed
Number of Sets
Number of Exercises
Rest Periods

And these are just the variables for a single, individual workout (which is the scope of this article). This doesn’t even take into account how the workout is split up, one’s workout history, and their overall goals. I could go on and on...but let's stay on topic.

​As if the different variables of the individual workout weren't enough to have to choose from, within each variable seems to be a million choices…

Do I want to do Back Squats, Front Squats, or Safety Bar Squats? Conventional Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts, or Trap Bar Deadlifts? Barbell Bench Press, Incline Press, or Floor Press? Pull-ups or Pulldowns? And with what grip? 

Do I want to do 4-6 reps or 8-12 reps? Pause reps or explosive reps? Slow negatives or a regular rep cadence? Do I want to do full body workouts or a split system? Should I rest 30 seconds, 1 minute, or 2 minutes between exercises?

To be considered a good “Training” program, the workout needs the right combination of these ingredients. 

But that’s not all…

The One Variable That Can Make or Break Your Workout

Most people can come up with the basics such as what exercises they want to do and what rep range they want to train in. BUT…these ingredients must be put together in the RIGHT ORDER. And this is where I see a lot of people drop the ball.

If you come from a bodybuilding background, you are probably familiar with a basic concept of exercise order...work your muscles from largest to smallest. So, outside of some VERY specialized phases of training, you wouldn't train your biceps before your back or your triceps before your chest.

For those fitness enthusiasts out there that are just looking to “exercise,”how you throw it all together doesn’t really matter…just as long as you’re moving. BUT...

If you really want to get the most results for the amount of time and effort you are putting in, you’re going to want to graduate to “training.” And this requires you to be more exact.

The Cutting Edge Order of Exercise

Regardless of your goal, here is the order that I recommend in order to be considered a proper workout design:

1. Warm-Up
I don’t care who you are…you need to warm-up! Warming up reduces your risk of injury and boosts performance across the board.

A warm-up doesn’t have to be complicated or complex. As long as you mobilize and activate the muscles that you’re about to train, you’ll be fine. 

2. Explosive Strength Training
Here is where you would throw in the very technical and explosive Olympic-like movements (cleans, snatches, jerks, etc). 

3. Heavy Strength Work
This is where you would do anything that has you training with a weight that you can only do for 6 reps or less (roughly at 75-95% 1-RM). This rep range is best saved for compound movements like presses, pulls, and squats. And it should be done before any higher rep work.

4. Hypertrophy Work/Muscle Growth
Building muscle requires metabolic fatigue, which will require training in a higher rep range (8 reps and above). If you did this training before any of the first 3 sections, you would fatigue your muscles and nervous system and this would limit your performance.

5. Conditioning:
I don’t recommend doing any cardio or conditioning before you weight training. And NEVER to be done before the technical/explosive stuff!!!

Now, not everyone will need all of these components. Often, the programs I design for my clients only have 3 of the 5. You must base it on your goals and training history.  

Designing your workouts to improve your performance as well as your physique can be incredibly hard. It’s easy to understand why someone could get overwhelmed. Hopefully this article helps make some sense of it.

Of course, it’s always best to have a coach like me lead the way ;)


Contact me for a FREE Consultation

If you are in the Nashville area and aren’t yet one of my clients yet, you'll want to take this opportunity to do something wonderful for yourself. Contact me today to get started on the most effective fitness program that you’ll ever find.

And be sure to check out all my training and diet tips on the Cutting Edge Facebook Page. It will motivate you. It will educate you. And you just may laugh a little bit. Don't miss out a day!
James Cipriani
Cutting Edge Personal Training
Nashville Area
Personal Trainer
(203)733-9385
Jim@JamesCipriani.com
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