With the growing number of people who commit to a more active lifestyle, gyms are starting to get more and more crowded over the years. Goals vary from the stay at home mom who just wants to get rid of her baby weight to the teenager who dreamed of being the best bodybuilder in history. No matter what your goals are, the exercises you choose to prioritize during your workout should reflect the goals you have set for yourself or obstacles you currently have.
Let’s say you are interested in competing in a power lifting meet. On the day of the meet, you be performing only the big three lifts, squats, bench and dead lifts. So for a power lifter, someone who is chasing to be the strongest at performing these lifts, it wouldn’t make sense for them to perform accessory/isolation movements at the beginning of their session then perform the compound lifts towards the end. At this point your energy will be dramatically drained if not completely drained when its more optimal to conserve yourself for the lifts that will exert the most amount of energy. In this case the big three compound lifts should be performed first, then exercises that will assist with those movements to improve weak points should be performed towards the end.
A body builder on the other hand doesn’t care too much about being the strongest. The main goal is to pack on the most amount of muscle while sculpting a perfect well balanced physique. There are several reasons why a body builder will prioritized certain exercises. One is that he/she identified a stubborn muscle that wont grow which will require more attention in order to make improvements to the overall physique. Another reason is an imbalance of the muscles for example, one bicep being bigger than the other. Therefore prioritizing single arm biceps movements is the approach you want to take to correct this. Last but not least, working around an injury is extremely common in bodybuilding. Let’s say you’re currently on prep for a show and your shoulder is causing you discomfort while performing the bench press. A great alternative will be to prioritize the smith machine instead because the bar only moves up and down. Now your stabilizers muscles don’t play a role in keeping a consistent bar path allowing you to only focus on fatigue the chest muscle.
The average gym goer is the person that wants to be fit and just wants to see changes to their body they’ve never seen before. They typically wing their workout or follow a split similar to Push, Pull, Legs in order to successfully train each muscle group twice a week. I will focus on the Push session for this example. Push simply means you focus on training your chest, shoulders and triceps on the same day. If you were to train shoulders and triceps first then leave chest towards the end, the secondary muscles that assist in most chest movements(shoulders & triceps) will be fatigue causing you not to be able to maximize the most amount of tension as possible for chest growth. Therefore the most optimal way to structure your push session would be to train your chest first, shoulders second and then triceps towards the end.
As you can see exercise priority has a place for every person in my opinion. No matter what exercises you have schedule for a particular training session, there is an exercise that one exert the most amount of energy and/or two that will bring you closer to your end goal. For the people that go to the gym during the busiest times, it may be hard to have the equipment you need available to you once you get in and its easy to shuffle your program around to prevent down time. I suggest asking the person currently using the machine “excuse me how many sets do you have left?”, then begin your warm up set while you wait or find an alternative that is still going to give you similar benefits to the exercise you have scheduled for that day. There’s always a way to maximize your training routine to ensure that your training efficiently and optimally. Find a way!!!