A workout isn’t just an arbitrary collection of exercises. There’s a right order in which those different exercises should be done to get the best results.
In this article I want to teach you how to structure your workouts correctly. I am going to tell you how I structure my own workout routine and why I do so.
I always begin my workout with a warm up of 7 – 10 minutes of light cardio. A lot of people neglect to do a warm up so don’t be one of them. It’s time well spent. A proper warm up helps to reduce risk of injury and it’s simply essential that you do one.
A warm up can be done on the treadmill, the elliptical, or any other cardio machine. If you’re working out at home, do jumping jacks or simply run in place for a few minutes.
In a previous article I wrote about the importance of leg exercises for fat loss. However, the reason why I choose to start my strength workout with them is different. I simply found that, for me, leg exercises are the best way to get into the groove of the workout. They simply make my heart race and push my body temperature up.
If I work on other body parts, I find that my body simply doesn’t react in the same way. When I begin my workout with squats or lunges, my heart rate increases and I stay that way throughout the workout. This results in a more intense experience and one which burns a lot more calories.
I often do strength-jumping exercises such as lunge or squat jumps to ramp up the intensity of the beginning of my workout, but you can do regular leg exercises if these are too intense for you.
Chest and Back (big muscles)
For the purpose of this article, I’m presenting the proper workout structure for a total body workout. Some people do splits in which they work the back on one day and the chest on another. The structure of the workout will be similar: the big muscles come before the smaller ones.
The reason why I do it this way is that the smaller muscles act as stabilizers and support the bigger ones. For instance, the triceps act as supporters during chest exercises while the biceps do so during back exercises. You want those muscles to be as fresh as possible when you’re working the bigger muscles. This is why the smaller ones have to be trained afterwards.
Biceps, triceps, shoulders
Doing isolated exercises on the smaller muscles will come at this point, once you’ve already worked on the bigger ones.
I do ab exercises at the end of the workout. The reason for this is twofold:
- My body simply gets cold when I do ab exercises. Most of them are lower in intensity than other strength exercises so the body doesn’t stay warm. I want to be as warm as possible throughout the workout, so doing the abs at the end is the most logical thing.
- The abs serve as supporting and stabilizing muscles throughout your strength workout. You don’t want to tire your abs at the beginning of the workout so you should do them toward the end.
If you’re going to do strength and cardio together during the same workout, do the strength workout first. There are two reasons for this as well:
- Cardio makes you sweaty and it’s not comfortable, or good gym etiquette, to do strength exercises with a drenched shirt.
- You want to be as fresh as possible during your strength workout because you need to maintain proper form during each and every exercise. Doing cardio first will simply tire you out.
At the very end of the workout comes the cool down and the stretching session. This is when you gradually lower your heart rate and stretch out your muscles to avoid cramps and soreness.
Note: What I’ve presented here is the structure of a regular workout. Some training methods call for super-sets, circuits, and other complex combinations. These may call for a different structure though the basics of it will remain.
This is how I structure my workouts. I think it’s the best way to do things. How do you workout? Do you do things differently? Leave me a comment below.