Tip: Do Your Workout Backwards

Tomorrow, do your workout as planned but reverse the order of the exercises. Here's why.

Every once in a while, do your workout backwards. From time to time, we all get into a training rut and start to lose enthusiasm and motivation. This can happen in response to life's stresses or it might happen after an extended period of time without taking a deload. Sometimes you just have to try something completely different.

In a well-structured program, a template for a good daily workout might be a heavy compound exercise or two, followed by a moderate rep compound exercise or two, and then a higher-rep isolation exercise or two. As an example, here's a pretty typical leg workout:

  • Squat: 5 x 5
  • Bulgarian Split Squat: 3 x 6 per leg
  • Glute-Ham Raise: 3 x 8-12
  • Leg Curl: 3 x 8-12
  • Standing Calf Raise: 3 x 15-20

So, shake things up and do it backwards. Completely reverse your exercise order. Start with the high-rep isolation work before moving into your moderate rep range exercises, then finish off with the heavy stuff.

Will you have to go lighter at the end? Maybe. But surprisingly, maybe not. Either way, the novelty of both the training stimulus and the mental break of switching things up may be just what you need to get over the hump. You'll also get the benefits of the classic "pre-exhaust" bodybuilding method.

As a bonus, this approach will allow you to invest more energy in exercises or muscle groups that you normally just "throw in" at the end of a workout when you're already fatigued. (The exception here may be with the more technical lifts, like Olympic lifting variations.)

Regardless of whether you typically do full-body workouts or follow a split, a little backwards training can work. I'm not advocating this approach as a regular thing, but at the end of a long week (or for a week at the end of a tough month), a backwards workout might be just what you need.

Dean Graddon (B Ed, MA) is a high-school teacher and coach with over 20 years' experience working with athletes from such diverse disciplines as swimming, soccer, volleyball, basketball and triathlon. Dean is dedicated to the promotion of health and fitness and loves a good challenge.