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I noticed that after doing squats I become very exhausted and tired, which seems to heavily affect my performance on the exercises following afterwards. Some of my collegues insist that squats should be performed at the very beginning of the workout, however I have noticed an improved performance in all exercises when postponing squats to the later half of my workout, whilst my squat performance was mildly affected.

Should I listen to my colleagues or should I follow my intuitive line of reasoning as stated above?

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    First exercise should be your personal priority for volume because you have the most energy. second exercise should be the one you want to max because its the perfect spot for when your blood is warm but you are not too exhausted.... anything after that should be things which doesn't require much mental discipline and power to complete. – user33930 Aug 23 at 18:30
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    What is your goal? – Muscicapa Striata Aug 24 at 6:02
  • @MuscicapaStriata Well, to progress basically. Everything that comes after squats I struggle in progressing with (not everything but most exercises) – Susp1cious Aug 24 at 10:20
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    Squat, then Bench Press, then Deadlift. That's the order in an IPF powerlifting competition, and that's the order that you'll want to train. – Nike Dattani Aug 25 at 0:23
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    @DaveLiepmann I agree I was being a bit facetious. The user said "Some of my collegues insist that squats should be performed at the very beginning of the workout" and that is precisely how powerlifters compete. When training, it is best though to "change up" the plan once in a while. By doing squats at the beginning for 6 months, and then squats at the end for 6 months, your body is learning how to do (or getting better at) a different thing. If you do squats at the end of a workout when many of your "main" muscles are tired, you activate auxiliary muscles, which you may actually want to do! – Nike Dattani Aug 25 at 14:05
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A workout should ideally follow a relatively strict ordering.

  1. (Warm-up)
  2. High-skill/coordination exercises or movements which you are still learning, e.g. agility drills, Olympic lifts, gymnastics
  3. Speed drills or explosive efforts, e.g. sprints, throws, Olympic lifts, power variants of the Olympic lifts
  4. Strength exercises, e.g. squats, deadlifts, presses, pull-ups
  5. Endurance exercises and longer-duration efforts, e.g. jogging, bodyweight squats and other calisthenics

This optimizes recovery, learning of motor patterns, and speed and strength development. It can also be dangerous to do highly-loaded strength exercises or high-skill movements while fatigued. (Much of this is taken from Science of Sports Training, Thomas Kurz, from several parts but leaning heavily on a summary on page 14.)

So for example, Olympic lifters often put their squats last. They know that squats are a tremendously important exercise that they value highly, but they also have a lot of technique work to do, which requires a lot of coordination and fresh focus.

For another example, a wrestler should ideally learn new movements soon or immediately after warming up, then do drills, then wrestle, and finally hit the weight room for a few lifts. This way they are at their best physical readiness to learn a new skill, and then transition into skilled movements that they already know well. Wrestling after that requires coordination but also some strength and endurance. Their lifting goes last so it does not interfere with the more important and more skilled wrestling movements.

In general, when deciding a tie between exercises, the higher-priority movement goes first. So, if both barbell squats and overhead press are equally well-trained, there is little difference between them. Then the choice is simply which one you want to progress more with.

But optimization is not always the goal. If you feel better jogging for half an hour before squatting, don't let guidelines hold you back. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

For instance, to continue the earlier squat/press example, the deadlift is generally put after both because it is so draining. But if you don't particularly care about your squat, and you find squats more draining than most, then it might make sense to put them closer to the end so that you can put more fresh energy into the bench press and pull-ups (or whatever).

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    Nice answer. I second all of that. – POD Aug 24 at 8:31
  • @DaveLiepmann Thank you very much for your elaborate answer! I will be basing my future workout-plans on your ideas and those of the ones you cited. – Susp1cious Aug 24 at 10:24
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I usually do squats after doing other workouts in the gym, because of its complexity and more challenging. Warm-ups and gentle stretching must be done before exercise to increase the flexibility of muscles and enhancing the blood flow. Doing hard exercise before a workout can result in muscular injury.

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My plan in the gym was usually doing just one set of high intensity low rep (about 3-5) squats in the beginning so as to not compromise too much on the squat, and after that I'd do bench press, overhead press, Pendlay rows and only after that would I complete the remaining sets of the squat (followed by the deadlift and other exercises). This is sort of a middle route where you compromise a bit on the squat and a bit on other lifts but not too much on either.

You can also take extended cold showers before your workout in order to maximize endurance and minimize fatigue. Taking a cold shower for about 20-25 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of biking to warm up, would induce a mild hypothermia along with vigorous shivering and this would help me immensely in the first few sets in the gym without having me feel tired. However, this is obviously an extreme measure and I would not recommend this to anyone with heart disease or other serious physical ailments.

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