How to group muscle groups for an effective workout
Learn how to combine muscle groups together in a workout to get the most out of your workouts when it comes to gaining muscle mass, strength, or muscle endurance.
The effectiveness of any workout depends on what you are trying to achieve.
Whichever goal you decide upon, the combination of muscle groups that you choose for your workouts must suit your goal and needs.
There are basically 4 ways you can group muscle groups:
- Train large and small muscle groups in one workout
- Train opposing muscle groups in one workout
- Train supporting muscle groups in one workout
- A combination of some or all of the above
Train large and small muscle groups in one workout
Large muscle groups are for example your chest and back. Small muscle groups are for example your biceps and triceps.
Unless you are trying to totally wear out a small muscle group, it is best to train large muscle groups before small muscle groups.
The reason for this is that small muscle groups almost always have a supporting function to larger muscle groups, so if you train them before you train large muscle groups, chances are great that you will not get a good workout due to instability and shakiness.
A good example is doing bench presses. Bench presses primarily target your chest muscles, but your frontal deltoids and triceps are also involved in the movement to be able to push the weight from your chest and lower it towards your chest.
By training your triceps before doing bench presses, you are effectively pre-exhausting your triceps and will therefore be able to bench press with less weight than if you had not pre-exhausted your triceps.
Train opposing muscle groups in one workout
Opposing muscle groups are for example your chest and back, or your biceps and triceps. But because the triceps support the muscles of the chest, you can also consider the triceps to be an opposing muscle group of the back muscles.
If you want to give a muscle group a lot of attention, for example, when you are trying to increase your strength, you may choose to train opposing muscle groups in the same workout.
The benefit of training opposing muscle groups in the same workout is that each muscle group gets the maximum possible amount of rest, so you can lift more weight, and thus increase your strength.
Example: You may choose to train your chest and biceps during one workout. Because the biceps are involved minimally in exercises for the chest, you will not be pre-exhausting your biceps. The result is that you will be able to train both your chest and your biceps with the maximum amount of concentration and weight.
If your goal is strength training, you may choose to train opposing muscle groups in one workout.
Train supporting muscle groups in the same workout
Supporting muscle groups are for example your chest and triceps, or your back and biceps.
As mentioned previously, if you train your chest before your triceps, you won’t be able to train your triceps with very heavy weights, because they are pre-exhausted by the chest exercises. The only exception to this is if you choose to do only isolation exercises and not basic exercises. But then again, the purpose of doing isolation exercises is not to lift heavy weights, but to isolate the muscle it by doing lots of reps with lighter weights.
Isolation exercises for the chest are exercises such as any type of flyes. Isolation exercises for the triceps are exercises such as triceps pushdowns, triceps extensions, etc. Basic exercises for the chest are exercises such as bench presses, incline presses, etc. Basic exercises for the triceps are exercises such as close-grip bench presses and bench dips.
If you are trying to increase muscle endurance, tone, or shape, you may choose to train supporting muscle groups in the same workout.
Mix and match muscle groups in one workout
It is always a good idea to keep your body and muscles off-guard by not allowing them to get accustomed to one type of workout. There is where mixing and matching muscle groups in the same workout comes into play.
If you need to shock your system or just add variety to your workouts, you may choose to combine the previously mentioned methods into one workout.
The combination of muscle groups depends greatly on what you want to achieve, so first decide what your goal is and then use common sense to construct a winning workout.
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