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Exercise Types for Maximum Strength and Muscle Size

Source: Roberto Simão, Juliano Spineti, Belmiro F. de Salles, Liliam F. Oliveira, Thiago Matta, Fabricio Miranda, Humberto Miranda and Pablo B. Costa
March 2010 - Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2010) 9, 1 - 7

Traditional exercise order dictates that you should work large muscle groups or multi-joint exercises before doing small muscle groups or single joint exercises. A study recently conducted by several researchers looked at the influence exercise order would have on the strength and thickness of muscles in untrained men involved in a twelve week period of resistance training.

The participants were broken into three assigned groups. One group began with large muscle groups and progressed to smaller muscle group exercises or the LG - SM group. The other group started with small muscle group exercises and advanced to large muscle group exercises or the SM-LG group. The third group was a control group and the training frequency was two times a week with at least a 72 hour rest between sessions. The exercise order for the LG - SM group was bench presses, lat pull downs, tricep extensions and bicep curls. The order of exercise for the SM-LG group was bicep curls, tricep extensions, lat pull downs and bench presses. The repetitions required were a one rep max for all of the exercises and data was collected after 12 weeks. After 12 weeks the participants in both groups showed a significant increase in strength gains when compared to the control group with the exception of bicep curls in the LG- SM group and bench presses in the SM - LG group.

The results of this study showed that if you have an exercise for specific training it should be done at the beginning of the training session regardless if is a large or small muscle group exercise. Exercise order can be particularly important during the initial stages of resistance training in untrained men. The results of the study also show that these results are independent of the size of the muscle group involved in the exercise for example whether it is a large muscle group or a small in muscle group

This study was conducted to study the long term effects of different exercise orders on untrained males. However these results may not be used as a baseline for all individuals because they were only conducted using people who were not involved in a regular exercise regimen. Researchers stated that future studies would investigate the chronic effects of exercise order on more experienced trainees and perhaps for a longer period of time. The conclusion of the study points to the fact that if you have a particularly important training goal then you should place the training of that muscle group at the beginning of your training session. Regardless of whether or not it is a small or large muscle group you will benefit from exercising that particular muscle group first in order to achieve the results that you are looking for.

Other key points of the study include the fact that whether or not you will be conducting exercises in a particular order, you will still have increases in strength and muscle volume regardless. In addition exercise order is of particular importance for improving strength during the first 12 weeks of any training program.

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