I'm with MPLANE37 with this one (again). I recommend doing the most challenging/dangerous exercise first when your muscles are fresh. For example, when I am working out my chest, I always do bench press first, because it's the only exercise I do where if I fail, the consequences could be serious. So there is no way that I would do a set on the bench press followed by a set of pushups followed by something else and then another set on the bench press. Too dangerous.
If you are doing a full body workout, aside from exercises that can be dangerous if you fail, it's usually best to do the exercises that involve the most muscles earliest. So if you are doing a compound exercise like pullups, and another simpler exercise like shoulder press, do the pullups first so you have fresh muscles all over, and then move on to the shoulder press.
Breaking up your exercises into supersets and circuits will interfere with your ability to order them according to difficulty, risk, etc. If you feel confident that none of your exercises need extra strength or focus, then you should do more difficult exer --- I mean, then you can mix them up as you describe.
Ultimately it will depend on your goals. If you are trying to build strength, you'll need to lift heavy and that means longer rest periods between sets, and difficult/compound exercises first. If you are trying to burn calories and keep your heart rate elevated, then you can do a circuit where you're moving rapidly from one exercise to another without resting between sets - that's going to mean you'll need to do one set of exercise A, then one set of exercise B, then one set of exercise C, then go back and do second set of exercise A and so on.
Fitness Minutes: (35,097)
2,167 10/15/12 7:48 A
I lift weights. Over the past 4 months, they have grown pretty large. I have to pay attention to the form or the consequences will be dire. So I can't go fast anymore. I have to really go one by one. I do squats, then bench presses or overhead presses and then finally dead lifts, in this order. Supersetting is not really an option here, because then I may become unable to lift what I usually can lift or I may end up not doing it with precise form if I do it too quickly.
Fitness Minutes: (6,605)
672 10/15/12 7:33 A
I do things both ways--I often work in "couplets" or "triplets". Rounds of two or three exercises that I will do x reps of before moving on to the next couplet or triplet. I will set up a workout of maybe 6 couplets that I work through three times each. I typically use an interval timer rather than a set number of reps, and rest very briefly between each set. You could do it with the set reps/no timer too. No real rules as far as that sort of thing goes.
Other times I like to work through a longer group of exercises and then go back to the top and start over.
I change things up mostly for my own enjoyment/motivation. Keeps me interested and having fun.
It's generally recommended that you rest your muscles for 30 seconds to 5 minutes between sets. With shorter rest breaks, it is more likely that you will reach the point of fatigue in fewer reps in the 2nd and 3rd steps.
Doing another different exercise (involving a different muscle group) during the 'rest' break is an entirely legitimate way of training, and is known as 'supersetting'. This is a much more time-efficient way of strength training.
Another option is to do your exercises in pairs, rather than going all the way through your circuit before repeating.
I have been strength training for 18 months now and this question has only just really occurred to me (lol)
Say I have ten exercises of three reps each to complete. Do I do them all in order (exercise 1, then 2, then 3) and then cycle through them 3 times, or do I do all 3 reps of one exercise before moving on to exercise 2?
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