Exercise Sequencing

Strength training sequences can include the following:

  • Moving from one primary muscle group to the next, while performing 1-3 sets of 4-16 reps (traditional weight room format).
  • Moving from a single set of one exercise directly into a second, third, or more and then repeating the entire series over again (super-, tri-, or giant sets).
  • Moving through a series of exercise patterns including arm combinations, leg combinations, or arm and leg combinations (more choreographed format).
  • Arm combinations-2 or more arm movements or movement variations (e.g., a biceps curl into an overhead press)
  • Leg combinations-2 or more leg movements or movement variations (e.g., a front lunge followed by a side squat).
  • Arm and leg combinations – 1 arm and 1 leg movement (e.g., a squat followed by an overhead press) or an arm and leg movement performed simultaneously (e.g., performing a squat while you do a biceps curl).

When designing your class you may choose to keep things simple and stick with a single sequence style or get creative with a variety of sequences and exercise variations. There are many ways to vary a base exercise. These variables of change include:

  • equipment type (e.g., tubes, weights, balls)
  • contraction type ( e.g., isometric, concentric, eccentric)
  • speed of movement (i.e., varying the beats used per contraction phase)
  • range of movement (e.g., full, partial, pulse)
  • lever usage (e.g., long, short)
  • angle or plane of joint action (e.g., front, side, diagonal, supinated,
  • pronated)
  • body positioning (e.g., standing, kneeling, seated, sup-1ne, prone)
  • traveling (i.e., movement in space front, side, and back)

An arm and leg combination sequence that uses angle and traveling variations might look like this:

  • 4 biceps curls in front of the body with alternating step front lunges (Fig.28-13)
  • 4 biceps curls on the side of the body with alternating step side squats (Fig. 28-14)
  • 4 biceps hammerhead curls with palms facing in, hands in front with calf raises (Fig. 28-15)
  • 4 biceps preacher curls with raised arms to front, with alternating step back lunges (Fig. 28-16)
  • You would repeat this sequence of four parts for 2-3 sets (a set is completed once all four parts have been executed). At this point, the biceps should be fatigued. It will be time to move on to another muscle group.An arm sequence that uses speed and range of movement as variations might look like this:1. Eight full range overhead triceps extension performed with focus on the concentric phase using 8 beats of music on the extension, 4 beats on the hold and 4 beats on the return to start position Combine movements using several variables of change:
    • equipment type
    • contraction type
    • speed of movement
    • range of movement
    • lever
    • angle or plane
    • body positioning
    • traveling

    2. Eight full range overhead triceps extension with focus on the eccentric phase using 4 beats of music on the extension, 4 beats on the hold and 8 beats on the return to start position 16 pulses, 2 beats per pulse, at mid range of the movement.

    To superset this exercise you could go immediately into a similar exercise sequence for another upper body muscle group (e.g., biceps curls) or lower body muscle group (e.g., squats).

    Selecting the Exercise Order

    When designing your overall class format, you will want to consider the order in which you will perform each exercise. There are many options depending on your class goals, the equipment available, and the focus of the workout, ln general, any well thought-out and balanced format will work. Shifting the format on a regular basis will keep the class interesting as well as help to prevent training plateaus. Some format suggestions include the following:

    Work the large muscle groups first. For example, perform exercises for the back and chest before isolating the shoulders or arms. Likewise you would isolate the larger hip and buttocks muscles prior to the legs.

    Group exercises according to body position (e.g., standing versus supine). With the exception of a circuit format, classes will flow more smoothly if you complete most or at least a group of exercises from one position before moving on to another.

    Perform challenging core exercises before less or non-core challenging exercises. An example would be to perform a high demand core stability exercise like a bilateral bent-over row prior to a less challenge core exercise such as a seated row with tubing.

    Alternating pull with push exercises. An example would be to do a bent over lat row (pull exercise) followed by a push-up or chest press (push exercise).

    Alternating upper with lower body exercises. Below is an example of an alternating upper body lower/body format.

    Alternating upper/lower body format order:

    • 16 reps – overhead press (for trapezius and deltoids)
    • 16 reps – squats (for gluteals, quadriceps, and hamstrings)
    • 16 reps – bent-over rows (for mid-trapezius and latissimus dorsi)
    • 16 reps-lunges (gluteals, quadriceps, and hamstrings)
    • 16 reps – biceps curls (for biceps)
    • 16 reps – calf raises (gastrocniemius)
    • 16 reps – supine bridge for (hamstrings and gluteals)
    • 16 reps – push-ups (for pectoralis major and triceps)
    • 16 reps – ab curls (for rectus abdominus)
    • 16 reps – prone back extension (for spinal erectors) Repeat sequence for 2-3 sets.

    Example Body Sculpting Class Breakdown

    A general total body sculpting class might include the following format.

    Warm-up (5-10 minutes). Include a balanced combination of dynamic and prepatory stretching along with rehearsal movement patterns that will mimic the actions to be performed later with resistance.

    Upper Body (10 minutes). Work larger muscle groups followed by smaller groups (latissimus dorsi, trapezius, pectoralis major followed by deltoids, biceps, and triceps).

    Lower Body (10 minutes). Include exercises for the gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps, tibialis anterior, and calves.

    Upper and Lower Body Work (10-20 minutes). Reach the peak in intensity with combination movements (upper and lower body exercise done simultaneously) or strength sequences (super-sets, tri-sets, and giant sets) utilizing both the upper and lower body in specific muscular fatigue sequences. When performing these combinations, you will need to lower the resistance to accommodate the weaker muscle groups being challenged.

    Floor work (10 minutes). Include upper body exercises (push-ups, chest flyes, and bench presses) as well as core work (abdominal curls, planks, and spinal extension exercises). This section can also include lower body exercises, such as bridge hip lifts and side lying leg work, if time allows. Cool-down Stretch (5-10 minutes). Provide a final static stretch with attention given to all muscle groups worked.

    Avoiding Plateaus

    Throughout the course of any group strength class, it will be important for an instructor to recommend that participants apply the principles of progressive overload. Encourage them to increase their resistance (appropriately), offer more reps or sets of the existing exercises, and/or vary and add new exercises on a regular basis. These progressions should be offered every few workouts for your regular participants. After the initial months of resistance training, when adequate strength levels have been attained, participants may still feel as though they are hitting a training plateau. At this time, it will be important to continue to create new challenges to the musculoskeletal system.

    This can be accomplished in many ways. You can vary the exercise equipment and/or format design of the workouts. Try using tubing if you were only using free weighs or visa versa. For groups that you see multiple times a week, you can rotate muscle focus. For example, have a heavy upper body focus day followed by a heavy lower body day. Another option could be to shift from a traditional body sculpt format to a cardio/sculpt circuit. As your group progresses, you may also want to offer a greater challenge by incorporating core stability and balance skills. Have them try performing a standing exercise like a biceps curl on one foot or work on a less stable surface like a balance board. By making constant shifts in your class options and routines, your participants will see continual growth and development in muscular strength and endurance, and most importantly, will avoid burnout and overuse injuries.

    Group exercise classes that train the body for muscular endurance and strength activities should be included in a total fitness program. The most important focus of the program is teaching participants where the muscle is, how to properly contract the muscle, and perform the exercise with correct alignment and movement mechanics. It will be important for instructors to apply the same principles used in weight room training (e.g., progressive overload, muscle balancing, injury prevention, and exercise sequencing) while taking into consideration some of the limitations and challenges presented in a group situation (e.g., availability of proper resistance, use of music, monitoring, and cueing). With all these factors in place, we should be able to develop group exercise resistance training classes with a focus on body sculpting and muscle strengthening that yield effective and measurable results.

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