Traditional exercise order dictates large muscle group or multijoint exercises should be performed before small muscle group or single joint exercises. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of exercise order on strength and muscle thickness (MT) in untrained men after 12 weeks of linear periodized resistance training. The participants were randomly assigned into three groups. One group began with large and progressed toward small muscle group exercises (LG-SM) while another started with small and advanced to large muscle group exercises (SM-LG). The exercise order for LG-SM was bench press (BP), lat pull-down (LPD), triceps extension (TE), and biceps curl (BC). The order for the SM-LG was BC, TE, LPD, and BP. The third group served as a control group (CG). Training frequency was two sessions/week with at least 72 hours between sessions. One repetition maximum (1RM) for all exercises, biceps and triceps MT (assessed by ultrasound techniques) were collected at baseline and after 12 weeks. After 12 weeks, all exercises for both training groups presented significant 1RM strength gains when compared to CG with exception of BC in LG-SM. Between baseline and post training, all exercises for both training groups presented significant strength gains with exception of BC in LG-SM and BP in SM-LG. Triceps MT for both training groups were significantly higher when compared to the CG, but with no significant differences between them (p > 0.05). Significant differences in MT from pre- to post-training were found only for the SM-LG group (p < 0.05), while the biceps MT presented significant differences only between LG-SM and CG (p < 0.05), Effect size data demonstrated differences in 1RM and triceps MT based on exercise order. In conclusion, if an exercise is important for specific training goals, it should be performed at the beginning of the training session, whether or not it is a large or a small muscle group exercise. Key pointsThe two linear periodized resistance training programs utilized promotes strength and muscle volume gains in untrained men.Exercise order may be particularly important to improve strength during 12 weeks of linear periodized resistance training.If an exercise is important for the training goals of a program, then it should be placed at the beginning of the training session, whether or not it is a large or a small muscle group exercise.
Keywords: Muscle strength; exercise; physical fitness.; weight lifting.