This is a unique training article that explores the need to do the most difficult, most productive exercises first in your workout to ignite the sparks of the fire known as muscle growth.
So get some wood, a match, and a little lighter fluid and prepare yourself for the inferno ahead!
All right, I know what you're thinking: "Is this a pyromaniac using bodybuilding as some sort of psychotherapy?" No, of course not.
I am using this comparison to show how crucial exercise selection and order in your routine is so important. So let's go back to the analogy of a fire being compared to your muscle growth.
Look, I am an urban guy and never was a big fan of camping or anything but this comparison works so humor me here! You need the right kind of wood on a fire if you want it to be big right?
You start out with little sticks, but once you have a little flame, you get the timber and put it on there and it starts burning going like crazy.
Notice the timber has to be large and dry. What if you were to get lots of little twigs and put them on, would the fire still be as big? No. The little stuff would burn quickly and you are back to square one.
The heat and energy you want from a fire is applicable to your muscles during a workout. You start out really light with warm up sets and stretching, but once you have a little blood in that muscle you start piling on the plates.
Now ya see it is not enough to just go heavy; you have to go heavy on the right exercises to get the most bang for your muscle-building buck. So what's the "timber" in this case?
is the heavy, basic compound movements.
These are the multi-joint movements that allow you to use the heaviest weights which in turn help you bomb the deep lying muscle fibers. For example, let's say you are training chest.
Instead of using one of those nice smooth comfortable Hammer Strength Machines as your lead off exercise, you would be better off heading for the Olympic bench and start your fire with the Barbell Bench Presses. After your warm-up sets, go right into your heavy sets and blast those pecs.
By doing this, you will work your muscles with the most taxing, and consequently the most productive, movements while you're freshest. By the time you are done with that exercise, you will have already forced those pecs to adapt and they will have more strength and muscularity.
Similarly, the first exercise in your routine is not only good for more overall muscularity in a muscle group - it also can help you bring up a weak point in that muscle group.
Let's say that your back is progressing well and everything, but you need just a little more width to get that flaring lat development.
Instead of starting out with Lat Machine Pulldowns or rows, go over to the chinning bar, attach some weight on a belt and grind out a sets of Wide Grip Chins.
I guarantee you that so will be sucking wind and that your lats will starting spreading like crazy after a while... the fire in your back will be an all out blaze and you have only done one exercise!
But remember, too much wood on that fire will smother it and it will be snuffed out. You have to remember this with your training.
If you do too many exercises and too many sets, your progress will be halted by overtraining - and your muscle growth will be reduced to ashes.
People's opinions differ sharply on this subject. The proponents of Mike Mentzer's style would say that the fire would go out after just 4 sets while others would advocate upwards of 25 sets. I myself do a minimum of 8 sets per muscle group, and not more than 15 sets - see what works best for you.
Top Rules For Fire Safety
To cap off everything, here are my top rules for fire safety, I mean muscle growth.
1. Tinder To Cinder
Warm up adequately. I mean exactly what I said. After some stretching and a 1-2 light, non-failure sets, go right into your heavy weights, starting with 8-12 reps on the first set and pyramiding up to a heavy weight that only allows 4-6 reps.
Use compound movements with heavy weights and good form to sear your muscles:
- Legs: Squats, Leg Presses, Stiff Legged Deadlifts, Lunges, Hack Squats
- Back: Wide Grip Chins, Deadlifts, Barbell Rows and Dumbbell Rows
- Chest: Bench Presses, Incline Presses (use barbells and dumbbells), Dips
- Shoulders: Military Presses with Barbells and Dumbbells or on a machine (for variety), and upright rows
- Triceps: Close Grip Benches, Heavy Lying and Overhead Extensions
- Calves: Standing Calf Raises and One-Legged Dumbbell Calf Raises
- Biceps: Barbell Curls, Alternate Dumbbell Curls
3. Avoid Smothering Your Fire
Don't put too much wood on the fire. After your mass moves, do 2-3 other exercises and don't go crazy on the volume.
4. Fuel Your Flame
Use lighter fluid to finish the burn. Consume a protein shake after to replenish your muscles!
Good Luck. Till Next Time!