How to Exercise the Large Muscles First

Smaller muscles get an end-of-workout boost with the biceps curl.
i Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

When you join a gym, you need to figure out a plan of attack for the best order for working out on the weight-machine circuit or with the free weights. Or maybe you’re lucky enough to have a home gym in your nest, or at least a set of kettlebells, barbells or dumbbells. Either way, be prepared to work on the largest muscles, such as your glutes, first. This exercise order prevents you from tiring your smaller muscles like your abs and biceps at the beginning. They need to be fresh so they can support the bigger lower-body and back muscles as they do their work.

Step 1

Warm up your muscles for five to seven minutes on a treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical trainer, advises Irene Lewis-McCormick in “A Woman’s Guide to Muscle and Strength.” Continue to wake up your body as necessary with seated pelvic tilts and hip circles on a stability ball and knee lifts with a medicine ball.

Step 2

Perform your first large-muscle exercise, which typically involves the three lower-body giants: the glutes, quads and hamstrings. Lewis-McCormick recommends a front lunge followed by a lateral squat. Or you can jog in place and perform arm swings until you break a light sweat. If you are not used to resistance training, you can begin with a leg-press machine. If you’re an advanced Nestie or team sports athlete, you may even start with the power snatch, a multi-joint exercise.

Step 3

Complete additional large muscle exercises while you are still fresh to get the most out of your workout. Perform the dumbbell front squat and leg extensions, Lewis-McCormick advises, as well as the incline pushup and seated hamstring curl. If you are more advanced, work on your overhead squat or Romanian deadlift, advises “NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training.”

Step 4

Give some love to the next biggest group of muscles in the back and shoulders, with the seated shoulder press, lat pulldowns, bent-over rows and lateral raises.

Step 5

Proceed to smaller muscle exercises involving the the arms, such as biceps curls. You can also add sport-specific small muscle work, such as heel raises, wrist curls and triceps press-downs. Wrap up your workout with core work, such as ab crunches and ball bridges.

the nest