T Nation

Heavy Training First in the Workout, or Later?


I believe it's pretty common for most of us to have a particular movement for each muscle group that we go as heavy as possible, in the lower rep range (3-8 or what have you). For example, mine are the bench press, overhead press, deadlift, and squat.

The thing for me is that when I do them at the beginning of the workout I am able to go much heavier, but the catch is that I seem MUCH more susceptible to nagging pains or injuries. Rarely can I progress for longer than 4 weeks on these movements when they're first in the routine, without having an accompanying pain in the wrists or knees.

However, when I shift these movements to a bit later in the routine, the pains are much less likely to come about since my "heavy" weight has now been reduced by the pre-exhaust.

I'm wondering, is it almost inevitable for these pains to occur when training this heavy FIRST in the workout, and that I should adjust my routine to negate these common pains? Or is it more likely that my form on the movements becomes poor when the weights get heavier? Any insight is appreciated.


what's your warm-up look like?


I'm inexperienced - I just wanted to chime in b/c I also noticed that, after putting squats fourth in the workout (after two hamstring movements and a quad movement) and as more of a quad dominant (more of a bodybuilding squat, as opposed to a powerlifting/athletic posterior chain emphasis squat, though I don't think this fact is that important), I experienced much less occurrences of injury, but my weights didn't drop significantly.

Although I am only a year in, and still relatively weak, I was a little weaker at first, but then I saw very quick gains. I was just wondering if, when I switch over to squatting first in the workout (starting 5/3/1 variant today), will I still be working with the same weights as I was on my 6/day/wk bodybuilding split.

I don't know, but any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks.


Learn the basics.

When you train the exact same way, over an extended period, you will injure yourself. Learn what your body can handle.

Imagine a professional athlete (doesn't matter which sport) and look at their training. Do they have the same load off season? During competition? How about the following week after the 7th game of the Stanley cup/World Series/etc???

For you, after 4 weeks, de-load, change the rep, do an alternate. For 1-2 weeks (again, it's your body, learn what works). THEN repeat.

Has nothing to do with first, second, third, fourth or whatever exercise. Where do you think carpal tunnel comes from?


I think it has everything to do with the order, and it's probably because he's not warming up sufficiently.


You think???? Damn, case closed.


Hey op, are you doing 5/3/1?

If so I found doing a few sets with just the bar and some pushups and good stretching get you nice and warmed up to do the actual warmup sets of 5/5/3 and the the 3 working sets.


That was a polite way of saying your advice blows, 4 weeks on the same program is no where near a long time, and the rest of your analogies aren't even relevant.


Really? 5/3/1 has a 3 weeks on, 1 week de load. You think that is done by mistake?

They are not relevant because you don't understand them.

You think what works for you, applies for everyone else?

The OP has pain after 4 weeks when he starts with the movement, but it lessens when he bumps it down. He never said they go away. All he is doing, is delaying the pain, not eliminating it. So, bumping it down, is useless.

If you want to dispute it, do so. With a conversation. Saying they are not relevant is not a dispute. Say why, explain it and defend it.

OP, deload. You will be fine. Probably stretch more also.


I do each bodypart 1x a week. At the beginning of each day, I will start with my heavy movements listed in the initial post. For these I go heavy, 3 sets of 5 across.

Here's an example of my bench press warm-up (since wrist pain is the most persistent thing I feel):
WORK SETS: 230x5 for 3 sets

It may be very likely I'm not sufficiently warming up. I am not doing 5/3/1. And JFG is right to say that when I move the exercises to later in the routine, pain sometimes still occurs, which is what leads me to believe it could be form problems. I'm a former Starting Strength guy (yes), so I've done these lifts literally thousands of times. So I would think it might be something other than bad form, but I won't rule that out.


This is what I was disagreeing with. If you are getting injured after training heavy for 4 weeks, you are doing something wrong. Usually the issue is crappy form, but since he doesn't have a problem if he goes heavy later in his workout, the problem is most likely inadequate warmup.

OP: Don't be afraid to do 4 or 5 warmup sets. On bench day, I stretch really good, do some windmills with 5 pound plates, then I bench the bar for a set, 135 for 2 sets and 185 for a set before I start my working sets. Taking an extra 10-15 minutes to warm up will go a long way towards keeping you healthy down the road.


Try more reps on your warmup sets, like 10-12. The idea is to get some blood in the muscle, and I know I don't get much of a pump from 3-5 rep sets.


I'm going to give my warm-ups more focus and see where it takes me. I guess it's one of those things you know, but need to be told again. Thanks for the suggestions so far.


Then, we agree to disagree.

Every GOOD program out there (that I know of), has a deload period. 5/3/1 is 3 weeks, 5X5 is 12 weeks, iBB is at least 4 weeks, etc.

But, I do agree about the warm up. I do at least 30 reps of body squat (holding a TRX) just to warm up my knees, BEFORE I touch the bar. Then again, I am 45....


Right. This is your problem. That is NOT a warm up (well it's about 1/10 of a decent warm up). You need to get yourself a 5-10 minute dynamic warm up to prepare your joints for explosive movement. Look up mobility wod, or anything from Cressey or Mike Robertson. Really, you have 5 minutes to spare to save yourself chronic nagging injuries. Training is also less than optimal if you're body is not primed for it.


Um no you dont.

You CAN. And that stuff is all well and good. But to prance around the gym for 10 minutes to get blood flowing and joints lubed as a mandatory recommendation is a bit of a stretch (get it :wink:..)

OP here's how I do my heavy stuff. Ill use chest as an example for simplicity.

incline dumbell press

50lb x 5, repeat.
70lb x 8, repeat for less reps
90lb x 8
work sets
105 x 12
115 x 12
125 x hopefully more than 8.

This is AFTER a preexhaust.

So yea, you dont warm up enough. But I think you need to spend more time warming up the specific movement. Youre endurance will improve as well.

I didnt read the rest of the thread btw. sorry


No doubt. 4 weeks is a very marginal time to be on a program. How does doing the same thing over an extended period of time lead to injury?? I have, and know plenty of people, who have trained the same way for years and not had injuries. I don't see the connection here.

And when did 5/3/1 with it's weekly deloads become gospel for bodybuilding? What pro bodybuilders do 5/3/1 and deload every fourth week, I would like to know.


Have you even read Cressey's stuff? Who said anything about prancing around or stretching?

Sure, it's not mandatory, but any time you ever seen anyone in these forums with shoulder pain on this, or hip pain on that, they have a very minimal warm up, while you never hear complaints from the guys who read a little bit about anatomy and mobility, assess and correct their postural imbalances and learn how to properly prepare their body for moving heavy weights.


You are not my age, that is why you do not see the connection. I know of no one that have sustained absolutely no injuries while working hard in the gym on a regular basis. From cramps to broken bones. The people you know are fortunate.

If you want to know which pro bodybuilder actually does 5/3/1, go and ask them. Don't bring useless data that will not be proven to a conversation.

And don't deload. Just keep putting 5 pounds a week or add a set or a rep for the rest of your life. Let me know how that works out for you.


still not seeing what that has to do with soing the same thing over a long period of time.
Ofcourse when you get older I am sure you have to be more aware of injury. You are right, I am not there and will not be so conservative.

I am not going to go ask pro bodybuilder whether they do 5/3/1. I don't need to. They dont, that was obviously the point.