Why you should do compound movements first.

This is part two of our resistance training series. Today we will touch upon exercise order. This information is based on evidence and our personal experience but remember everyone is different and there will be exceptions.

Resistance exercises can be arranged into two groups; Compound/multi joint and Isolation/single joint movements. A compound movement is an exercise that occurs over more than one joint and involves multiple muscles groups, for example a squat is a compound movement as you are using multiple muscle groups around the knee, hip and ankle. An isolation movement would be around a single joint and generally involve a single muscle group, for example the leg extension to target your quadriceps. Some examples are shown below.

Compound exercises Isolation exercises
Bench Press Tricep Extension
Squat Leg extension
Deadlift Hamstring curl
Clean + Jerk Bicep curl
Snatch Pec Fly


Both types of exercise will produce hypertrophy (Remember last week’s post) but compound movements are far more effective. These exercises lead to greater metabolic and hormone responses from the body, it’s this hormone release that actually tells your muscles to grow so that next time you get stronger but that’s a different post for a different time.

So why put them first? I think everyone will agree that you have most energy at the start of your work out. This is why big complicated movements come first; they require the most strength and skill to complete. If you wait until the end of your workout, you will be tired and will end up performing less sets/reps of the compound movement which means you will get less of a response from your body. It’s like sprinting 100m; you don’t walk at the start and expect to win! Due to the complexity of some of these lifts you may be more prone to injury as well.

Your first exercise should be most related to your goal. For most people that will involve putting compound exercises first as they are the best for building muscle and getting stronger, but there will be exceptions. For example and athlete may need to prioritise a particular movement for their sport.

Happy Lifting

Written by Sam Ferguson + Iain Halkett


Gentil, P., Soares, S., Pereira, M., Cunha, R., Martorelli, S., Martorelli, A. and Bottaro, M. (2013). Effect of adding single-joint exercises to a multi-joint exercise resistance-training program on strength and hypertrophy in untrained subjects. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 38(3), pp.341-344.

KRAEMER, W. and RATAMESS, N. (2004). Fundamentals of Resistance Training: Progression and Exercise Prescription. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 36(4), pp.674-688.

PETERSON, M., RHEA, M. and ALVAR, B. (2005). APPLICATIONS OF THE DOSE-RESPONSE FOR MUSCULAR STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19(4), pp.950-958.

Simão, R., de Salles, B., Figueiredo, T., Dias, I. and Willardson, J. (2012). Exercise Order in Resistance Training. Sports Medicine, 42(3), pp.251-265.

2017-05-25T13:22:16+00:00 Fitness, Training, Weights|