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What Muscles Should You Workout First
Does the order you exercise in matter?

Squats with a trainer.
Squats with a trainer.

When you start working out in a gym, one of the first decisions you have to make is what muscles you will train. Randomly going from one exercise to the next fails to maximize your time. It can also lead to injury if you strain muscles unprepared for the lift you attempt.

Here’s a simplified list of how to structure your workouts.

For the beginner, start with a full-body routine. Your goal should be to target the major muscle groups and learn each exercise’s proper form and movements. You’re not going to concentrate on any specific muscles; you’ll target different areas as you get more advanced. Workouts don’t have to take long. Just 30 minutes 2-3 times a week, with a one-day break after each workout.

Begin your workouts at the top of your body. Most people’s upper-body muscles are weaker than their lower body. That means working those upper-body muscles can take more energy and attention, two things you have more of at the beginning of a workout.

Start with upper body exercises.

Move from larger muscles to smaller ones. The chest and back are big on your upper body, while the biceps and triceps are smaller. On your lower body, the hamstrings and glutes are larger muscles, while your calves are smaller.

Muscle Groups

After a few months, explore split routines. That means splitting your workouts between opposing muscles groups. You can divide it between upper-body and lower-body, front and back muscles or push and pull muscles. For example, if you do a “push” exercise like chest press one day, you should follow that with a “pull” exercise like rows the next day.

Typically split routines are two days of working out, followed by a rest day. They’re for people who have a little more time since they require a minimum of training four days a week. By balancing your workouts between opposing muscle groups, your goal is to prevent strength imbalances. If significant differences in strength emerge, talk to a personal trainer or physical therapist about corrective measures.

Add in compound exercises as you get stronger. You don’t have to spend hours working out, one muscle at a time. Compound exercises involve multiple joints and muscle groups.

The push-up is an example of a compound exercise for your upper body. It works your chest, back, core, shoulders and triceps. A lower body example of a compound exercise is the squat. It strengthens calves, glutes, hamstrings and quads while also forcing you to maintain your balance.

Compound exercises can provide several benefits. Use them as a warm-up before more intense and focused workouts. They help you save time since you’re working multiple muscles simultaneously. They’re great at building mass since you can lift heavier things using numerous muscle groups. You can use them to improve coordination and balance. Finally, you will burn more calories quicker since it takes more energy to activate several muscle groups at once.

Over time, you’ll notice specific muscles may be falling behind. Use isolation exercises to target those lagging bodyparts. They involve extending, curling, or raising to work individual muscles. Bicep curls, calf raises and chest flys are all examples of isolation exercises.

Whatever program you’re doing, always focus on properly moving through the full range of motion for every exercise. If you can’t do it properly, reduce the weight until you can. You’re not going to do yourself any favors if you get injured and have to spend weeks recuperating.

Several factors can make workouts more or less effective. Which body parts you exercise, how much weight you move, how long you exercise and how frequently you workout are only part of the story.

You need to make sure you’re eating the appropriate amount and types of food outside the gym: fiber-filled carbohydrates, lean protein, and plenty of vitamin-filled vegetables. Sleep is vital to recovering, and cardio exercises will strengthen the heart. Pay attention to your WHOLE body, and your WHOLE body will respond.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.