Are Your Exercises in Order?

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I think that every program someone does should be written down.

This will help with adherence to the program and tracking progress over time.

I know from experience that my least productive days were the ones without a plan. I have seen many people at the gym just bounce around to different exercises doing a little bit of this and then some of that.

Sometimes starting with curls and then doing rows, followed by pull-ups does not really make a lot of sense.

For the best results, there should be an order to the exercises that you are going to pick. In simple terms it should be done similarly to this:

Warm up (movement prep), explosive movements, core lifts, accessory lifts.

Warm up

Some kind of warm up should always be done first to increase core body temperature and get the muscles/joints ready for the tasks at hand. Doing a couple of arm circles after riding the bike for 5 minutes does not mean you’re ready to bench.

I also feel that some movement prep needs to be included with the warm up. This can be mobility, stability, and/or activation drills.

An example of this could be body weight overhead squats (mobility), planks/side planks (stability and activation), and bridges (glute activation).

Static stretching is not recommended for a warm up.

Explosive movements

These are also the power based exercises. Any time you are trying to move a weight quickly, while incorporating big muscle groups is developing power.

These exercises include clean, jerks, snatches, med ball slams, plyos, kettlebell swings, etc.


The purpose of performing them first in a program is to ensure that the body is not fatigued when performing them. Training through fatigue can compromise technique and that can make these exercises risky.

Core Lifts

No, this is not ab work. The core lifts are multi joint exercises that get a lot of bang for your buck. These include: bench variations, squat variations, deadlifts, RDLs, chin-ups, and some presses.

These exercises are what’s going to get you the greatest gross benefits. If your lower body is weak, start squatting. If you cant do a chin-up, pulldowns are not going to make miracles happen. 

These lifts have high muscle activity and as a result use a lot of energy. If you are fatiguing your muscles with isolation exercises, performance in the big lifts is going to suffer.

Accessory Lifts

I hate this term but it is easy to get the message across. These exercises are not worthless but they are more important for the more advanced lifter. They are usually done with lighter weights, can be single jointed, or tend to have a specific intention.

An example of this would be a single leg squat, a very difficult exercise. Someone who wants to get stronger in the lower body should be squatting and deadlifting before single leg squatting.

When someone starts to identify that they have weak glutes and it is causing their squats and deadlifts to suffer, then an exercise like this will be important.

This is also the time when people can work on the gun show. For people that want to look better, arm work should be done at the end.

You do not want to do so many bicep curls that if prevents you from rowing or doing chin-ups. Save it for the end to blast them before hitting the showers.

This is some basic information on how to put your exercises in an advantageous order.

It is important to work smart in order to reach your goals or else you may be stuck wondering why you are not making progress.

Follow these guidelines and you will be on a path to success.