Are You Using the Wrong Exercise Order?

Are You Using the Wrong Exercise Order?

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Before we dive into today’s post, I wanted to share something cool with you.

Cuz, ya know, it’s MY blog after all…

Our junior hockey team recently had pictures taken of all the players and staff for the 2015-2016 season – and this beauty came out…


The most official looking photo ever

Pretty sweet, huh?

With the backdrop out of the way, let’s talk exercise order.

Certainly not the sexiest training topic out there and you’d think people knew how to structure a workout aimed at improving strength, speed, power and body composition by now.

Turns out they don’t.

At least based on the emails I receive from young athletes asking me to look over their training plan, expressing frustration about how they’ve been following so-and-so’s (typically some “internet trainer’s”) program for a month without getting ANY results.

Here’s an example of an “athletic workout” I saw recently:

1. Leg press 4×8-12

2. Squat 4×8-12

3. Lying leg curl 4×8-12

4. Standing calf raise 4×8-12

5. Deadlift 4×8-12

6. Sit-up 4×8-12

What we see above can hardly be described as an effective strength training plan.

More like a random collection of exercises vomited on a sheet of paper that someone packaged up neatly and now sells for a nice profit to guys who don’t know any better.

Without going into why those set/rep schemes and exercise selection flat out suck in the first place, the exercise order alone makes me laugh almost as hard as these Vesa Toskala highlights from his Maple Leafs career.

Here’s how it should be:

1. Speed/power work

You should start every training session with the most neurally demanding activity.

Jumps, sprints, Olympic lifts, med ball throws fall in this category.

2. Maximal strength work

These include your heavy main barbell exercises and other low rep exercises in the 1-6 rep range.

Squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead lifts and their variations. Single-leg squats and weighted chins, dips and push-ups – when loaded heavy enough – could be counted as max strength work as well.

3. Assistance/pump work

We’re talking things like upper back, ab, neck, hamstring, trap work etc. here – typically done in the 8-15+ rep range after the main lifts to get more volume in.

Now, there are exceptions where a different exercise order may be warranted.

For instance, doing speed work later in the workout after max strength exercises prepares you to be fast and explosive under fatigue towards the end of a game, as I learned from NFL strength coach Joe Kenn.

Or you can pair something like a glute activation or shoulder prehab drill with a max strength exercise, just as Mike Boyle or Kevin Neeld do in their programs.

However, as always – to break the rules, you must first know them.

And now you do.

So don’t waste another training session following a training plan that takes you nowhere.

For a proven training plan combining gains in strength, size and power, take a look at this…

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Yunus Barisik

Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.