The general consensus of exercise order seems to be larger muscle groups first, smaller muscle groups after. So squats or deadlifts would precede presses and pull ups. I started out doing that, and it went fine.

Brooks Kubik holds a different position, he thinks because the press - that is lifting a barbell over your head while standing - requires a strong torso, that tiring it through doing squats or deadlifts is a bad idea. I tried doing that for my past two workouts, and it also seemed fine.

So, has anyone done a study comparing these two methods based on their respective merits (as opposed to just testing one hypothesis and comfirming it)?

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    I've tried doing presses first when they were stuck and my squats were brutalizing my energy levels for the rest of the workout. It worked OK as I recall--I will check my notes. Aug 24, 2012 at 12:43
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    I always do squats first, for the reason you stated. But I do deadlifts last as they usually leave me so exhausted that my other lifts suck. I believe this is the sequence Rippetoe suggests in SS. In the end, find what works for you. Aug 24, 2012 at 14:44
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    @WayneInML This (SQ,BP,DL) is also the order of events in a powerlifting competition - not sure if that's the reason, but it makes sense.
    – G__
    Aug 24, 2012 at 17:04

4 Answers 4


You put the most important thing first. If you are working on your press strength, put it first. The advice to put squats first are for people who are brand new to lifting. Squats are the one exercise that take a lot of effort to get right, but have the biggest rewards as far as strength and muscle development go. If you've been lifting for more than two months, you may get to a point where you need to put the press first to help it keep moving.

  • extremely simple answer which hits the nail exactly on the head concerning this question... Aug 28, 2012 at 20:27
  • I agree that the crux of the issue really boils down to this one single point.
    – Moses
    Aug 28, 2012 at 21:15

The first thing to consider is that you will see improved results in whichever exercise you choose to open with. You are the least fatigued at the beginning of your workout, so it is intuitive that you will see the best results in whatever you choose to do first. Anecdotally, I recently put the press at the beginning of my workout (StrongLifts) and it helped break me through a huge plateau.

The second thing to consider is warming-up. I noticed when I moved to a Press->Squat structure, I didn't feel properly "warmed-up" as I went into the #2 exercise. However, this is pretty anecdotal and your mileage may vary.

The final thing to consider is the impact you will have on your subsequent exercises. Unless you are doing supersets, it is usually a good idea to have a buffer exercise separating two similar exercises. For instance, squats and deadlifts are both very similar and target a lot of the same muscle groups; it would therefore be a bad idea to do a press/squat/deadlift workout, because you wouldn't have enough recovery time between the squats and deadlifts.

As a solution to this problem, you could use press as the buffer exercise between the squat and deadlift, or alternatively you could replace the deadlift with a low-impact exercise like the bench press or rows (press/squat/bench). Either one is acceptable and depends on how flexible your workout program is.

Altogether, the final answer depends on your particular goals and what other exercises you are doing.

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    +1 for personal experience. Glad to hear you busted that press plateau. Your point on warm-up is also excellent. However, I want to stand up for putting squats and deadlifts adjacent to each other--I've found that as long as they're the first two exercises I do, I have no trouble. Press/Squat/DL and Chins/DL/Squat causes me trouble, but Squat/Deadlift/anything else is generally fine (though reduces progress on everything else). Aug 28, 2012 at 18:51
  • @DaveLiepmann I agree with that addendum 100%, as I've seen the exact same results.
    – Moses
    Aug 28, 2012 at 21:14
  • At the moment the deadlift doesn't give me any problems, so I can put it adjacent to the squat without worrying, but when that doesn't last, do you think throwing chin ups in between would do the trick?
    – Robin Ashe
    Aug 29, 2012 at 0:58

Givanse, I find your answer not helpful. Although deadlift is the bigger exercise than press, common sense tell me that deadlift is easier to "grind out" from than press. If you find yourself struggling with press, you're more prone to injury. In case of deadlift, just drop the bar and you're fine. In conclusion press first before deadlift, provided that both are at least intermediate weight relative to your body weight.

  • I think there are a lot more deadlift injuries press injuries.
    – Eric
    Mar 13, 2015 at 4:04

because the press (not bench press) requires a strong torso, that tiring it through doing squats or deadlifts is a bad idea

Squats and dead lifts require an even stronger torso, that's why you do them first. In the press, your whole back is supported at all times; also your balance muscles have it easy compared to standing on your feet with a barbell on your back.

Its common for guys to curve their back in the last few reps of a squat; that is because their torso, mainly the lower back, got tired before his legs. This could lead to back injury. In the other hand, if you get tired in the last few reps of the leg press; you could still curve your back, but it will be much easier to correct it.

Squats and dead lifts first, because those are more dangerous exercises; You need to keep balance at all times while performing the movement and your back does not have any support.

  • any studies. supporting this? it's really just conjecture as you've presented it, no more or less credible than kubik, but i'd like more as personal experience has told me both are fine
    – Robin Ashe
    Aug 24, 2012 at 23:42
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    @RobinAshe What kind of study would even be relevant? Studies of injury rates between different types of weightlifting are pretty rare indeed. Aug 25, 2012 at 2:38
  • @DaveLiepmann maybe a study comparing muscle fatigue levels with different exercise order?
    – Robin Ashe
    Aug 25, 2012 at 6:29
  • I've got that clear. Its in the quote that I added to my response; Also, I specify "leg press" in the second paragraph.
    – givanse
    Aug 25, 2012 at 19:44
  • As for studies, I doubt you'll find any. I don't know any body builder or power lifter that will do presses before squats. Most people will agree that squats require more effort, so you do them first. Usually the best proofs that you can get are to watch what the pros are doing. Google a Branch Warren leg workout and check what he does first. Do the same for other big names.
    – givanse
    Aug 25, 2012 at 19:54

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