In what order should I work my muscles when strength training?

When strength training it is best for you to focus on large muscle groups and multi joint exercises and then progress to smaller muscle groups and single joint movements. For example, if you want to strengthen your legs it would be better to start a movement like squats or Deadlift before performing a movement like a leg extension or leg curl. Movements like squats, Deadlifts, pull ups, push ups, are all examples of complex large muscle group multi joint movements. Movements like these mimic natural movement and are how the human body moves and training by working these movements will give you better results with less risk of injury. Movements like biceps curls, triceps extensions, and leg extensions are known as “isolation” movements and do not mimic natural movement and are best done when a specific muscle is weak or for body builders looking to maximize the size of a specific area. 

Most functional workouts for those who are just beginning or athletes require multi joint exercises that end up training the whole body.  Therefore what Yusuf suggests is great and the standard protocol for the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

There are tons of variations to this and ways to train specific body parts on specific days but if you are either beginning or an athlete the majority of the time full body workouts are usually the best course of action.

Splitting up body parts generally are reserved for hypertrophy training or the goal to increase the size and density of the skeletal muscle.  To increase density (shape in muscle) there requires a greater number of exercises or load on that particular muscle than total body training cannot do.  There are many ways to do this as well but an example would be to do Chest, Shoulders, Triceps one day, Lower Body one day and another day of Back, Biceps with additional flexibility, balance and core work.

Order wise most of the time you want your prime movers (larger muscles) that will require more intensity and energy to be at the beginning of your workout or circuit if doing some variation of total body training.  Most people will do Total Body before arms or Legs before upper body if that makes sense.

Yusuf Boyd, NASM Elite Trainer
Athletic Training

Self-Myofasical Release followed by an active warm-up (sometimes referred to as a dynamic warmup) is a great place to start. This "wakes up" the body and prepares it for exercise. Generally speaking, I begin the majority of my client's workouts with core and balance exercises to ensure that they are activating and stabilizing properly. These exercises typically require the entire body to perform and are a great place to start before getting into lifts. From there I usually have clients do a total body exercise followed by chest, back, shoulders, arms and last, legs.

I have found that working progressively in this order has produced the greatest results. After the last exercise, I always have clients repeat the active warm up and SMR from the beginning of the workout.

Continue Learning about Types Of Exercise Programs

Types Of Exercise Programs

Types Of Exercise Programs

From walking to engaging in team sports, exercise comes in many forms. Aerobics, stretching, weightlifting and endurance training are some of the types of exercise that produce health benefits and enjoyment. With each type of exer...

cise, proper technique and posture is critical in preventing injuries while achieving maximum health results.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.