Which Muscle Groups Should I Train First in a Workout?

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question-icon-newI have read a few different articles in popular fitness magazines that state you should train a larger muscle group first, then a smaller muscle when you’re working out. Is this correct?

answer-icon-newWhen training in the gym there are numerous exercises that you can perform which involve either targeting a specific muscle group with an isolation exercise like dumbbell kickbacks for the triceps or working a group of muscles with a compound exercise like squats that target the quadriceps, hamstrings and lower back. The most important muscle to train first in a workout depends on both the results you want to achieve and on how the muscles work in relation to one another.

Workout Tips
Before you begin training keep these points in mind to avoid injuries:

  • Proper technique and form when lifting weights will protect your body from injuries and ensure that you achieve success targeting a muscle group during each session.
  • Muscle mass is achieved by overloading the muscles by lifting heavy weights so don’t be afraid to pack more plates onto the bar and kick up the intensity.
  • As your body gets accustomed to each exercise, it is important to change your routine in order to challenge your body for a more intense workout.
  • Rest is crucial since lifting weights creates micro-tears in your muscle fibers, so they need time to recover and repair themselves which makes them bigger and stronger.

Muscle Groups
workout-smaller-or-bigger-muscleDifferent muscles in the body are classified as large and small. Legs, back and chest are considered large while biceps, triceps, forearms and shoulders fall under the small category. These smaller muscles provide assistance to the larger muscles during training which is why you should not exercise the smaller muscles first if both muscle groups are being training in the same workout (example: chest and triceps workout).

If you train triceps before chest, your smaller muscles will become fatigued and will not be able to support the heavy weights required by the chest exercises later in your workout routine. By working the larger muscles first and then moving onto the smaller ones you avoid undue strain while increasing muscle mass, density and strength. Therefore, the most important muscles to train first in a workout would be the larger ones when you have the most amount of energy. The key is to focus on mass building exercises like the ones below and you will see your muscle mass and strength increase:

Opposition and Support Systems
Opposing muscles are those that are not co-dependent during a workout. For example, you can train your chest muscles without your biceps providing support of any kind. It is a good idea to train opposing muscle groups because this gives the supporting muscles enough time to rest and get stronger.

Nutrition
Any good workout is useless for building muscle mass if you’re not eating enough high quality calories throughout the day. Here are some nutritional tips to remember:

  • If you add too many calories too quickly you will pack on unwanted body fat. Increasing your calories by 300-500 a day is recommended. Slowly increase calories at this level and monitor your body composition to make sure your gains are lean muscle and not fat.
  • Eating protein rich food makes your body more likely to recover properly and repair muscle tissue. Focus on eating at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you weight 175 pounds, you should be eating a total of 175 grams of protein per day.
  • Don’t think eating lots of calories means you can pig out on junk food! Rather than eating processed foods like cookies, chips and candy, pack your kitchen with nutritious foods like lean meat, nut, fruit and whole grains.
  • Alcohol has been proven to decrease testosterone levels so watch the late night parties and drink only in moderation.

Summary
In order to achieve maximum results when working out you need to be safe by understanding the correct way to perform each exercise and combine these routines with an equally nutritious diet. The larger muscles are the most important muscles to train first in a workout in combination with opposing or supporting muscles. The intensity of each workout is critically important for packing on maximum muscle mass and getting stronger, so always try to increase the amount of weight being used for different exercises and positive results in muscle and strength will be seen!

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