Exercise Order for Concurrent Training

Sam Stephens

January 2020

Cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, and muscular endurance work. Which should come first and what is best saved for last?

This excerpt is taken from Fitness & Nutrition Programming for Beginners.

“Because effective resistance training programs require some form of cardio, we need to make sure that our sessions support concurrent (targeting more than one exercise style) training while avoiding unnecessary amounts of fatigue. To keep both CNS and PNS fatigue from interfering with our workout productivity, we start with strength, transition into hypertrophy, and then end with cardiovascular conditioning. This setup places the most high volume and fatigue inducing exercises at the end and allows us to maximize our strength/hypertrophy training potential before we get too tired. Untrained lifters will be able to get away with any random order they want for 2-3 months, but that will fade along with the beginner gains – do things the right way from the start. 

The second line in ordering structure addresses the arrangement of multi-joint vs single-joint exercises and is also primarily influenced by fatigue. While multi-joint movements can feel more tiring than their single-joint counterparts, isolating individual muscles with single-joint exercises actually leads to greater levels of localized peripheral fatigue. If performed first, single-joint movements can compromise the overall integrity of multi-joint movements. If one muscle in a kinetic chain is weakened, the loading potential for that exercise will be decreased. While this multi to single-joint transition is best in most scenarios, there are instances where that order could be reversed (pre-exhaustion).

The last exercise ordering guideline relies on personal preferences and individual program goals. If your daily concurrent structure progresses from resistance training to cardiovascular conditioning and places multi-joint before single-joint movements, any remaining sequence uncertainties should be determined by what’s most important to you and your programming/periodization focus. This is especially true for untrained lifters.

While not pictured, power training would occur before strength for competitive athletes (football, CrossFit, weightlifting, etc).”

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