A Workout’s Exercise Sequence Affects it’s Results
January 26, 2010
A few years ago I took a class from a new teacher who accidentally reversed two exercises called “round-back” and “flat-back” (they are taught only in the studio-based classes and not on the dvds). Most students, myself among them, find these exercises two of the toughest in the workout. That day when the teacher reversed them, they became easy. My heart-rate slowed down, and I did not feel challenged for the rest of the class. Was it my imagination, or did switching the order of these exercises rob them of their edge?
The answer is yes, exercise order can make or break your workout. The Bar Method recognizes this dynamic and uses it to maximize results. Take the above example: Round-back and Flat-back are designed to raise your heart-rate and burn away fat. Flat-back is the harder and faster exercise, and placing it second makes it exponentially harder because your muscles are already pretty fatigued when you get to it. That state of near exhaustion is what you want to get to if you’re aiming for quick body change.
Similarly, The Bar Method places push-ups after its free-weight exercises so that push-ups become intense enough to serve as a bout of interval training. That way, you wrap up the upper-body work section by burning fat off the muscles that the free-weight exercises just sculpted. Why end with push-ups? Because they work a larger portion of your body’s muscles than free-weights do. Yes, if you reversed the order and did push-ups first, the free-weight work will seem more challenging, but free-weights just don’t engage enough of your body’s muscles to ever be a serious burner.
Safety is another reason the Bar Method puts free-weights before push-ups. The human shoulder tends to be vulnerable to injury because of its unusual flexibility relative to other joints. To have our cake (sculpted arms) and eat it too (less fat), the Bar Method starts with the gentler exercises to allow the shoulders to warm up before launching into push-ups.
Most important of all for body change, the Bar Method’s exercise sequence sculpts long, graceful muscles like those of dancers. Their ballet bar workout starts with plies to warm up their thighs and ends with battements to stretch their hips. The Bar Method class uses the same progression. It starts with leg raises that engage your thighs and ends the standing bar work section with seat exercises that extend your leg behind your hip. In the second half of the class, the Bar Method starts with thigh and hip work (round-back and flat-back) and ends with hip stretching (back-dancing). (For more on stretching, see “How to Sculpt a Dancer’s Body”)
The three-fold beauty of this sequence is that it generates plenty of intensity to slim down your body, maximizes joint safety, and constantly elongates your muscles from the initial warm-up to the final stretch.