Every muscle can act as prime mover, synergist, or stabilizer, depending on the movement. We said that when you do a Bench Press, the pecs are the prime mover, and the triceps are synergists. But when you do Tricep Press Down, the triceps function as prime mover, and the pecs function as stabilizers.
In determining exercise order, we will mainly be concerned with prime movers and synergists. Here is a list of prime movers and synergists for several upper body parts. Most nearby muscles that are neither synergist nor prime mover are acting as stabilizers.
The interdependency of prime movers and synergists leads to an important concept. As a general rule, if a muscle is going to be called on to function as a synergist at some point in your workout, you shouldn't work it as prime mover first. If you do, the muscle, tired from working as prime mover, makes an ineffective synergist. For example, you wouldn't want to work triceps before pecs, because tired triceps would severely limit your efforts in the bench press.
This is the rationale behind the tried-and true rule of working from the center of the body outward.
||Lats, Middle and Lower Traps
||Supine, Incline, and Decline Bench Press
||Triceps and Anterior Deltoid (front shoulder)
|| Military Press Upright Rows
||Triceps Upper Trapezius
Forearms should always be worked last, for two reasons:
- They are involved in almost all upper body weight training exercises, so you run the risk of dropping barbells (perhaps in the middle of a bench press!) if you tire your forearms first.
- The heavy weight often used for Bench Press and most kinds of Rows is sufficient to injure wrists destabilized by tired forearm muscles.
Notice synergists become prime movers later in your routine. This yields another benefit. These muscles, now acting as prime movers, are already fatigued from functioning as synergists, so they don't need to be pushed as hard to get a good workout. Result: greater gains with less effort!
Although the "Work from Center of the Body Outward" concept is a well-known application of the Interdependency Principle, there are other applications less well-known, yet equally powerful.
We will use four of these applications in structuring the routines listed in the Program Section: working muscle segment as synergist before working muscle segment as prime mover, supersetting two exercises for the same prime mover that employ different synergists, pre-exhausting, and doing back to-back exercises where synergist or stabilizer Immediately becomes prime mover.
Interdependency Application # 1
WORKING MUSCLE SEGMENT AS SYNERGIST
WORKING MUSCLE SEGMENT AS PRIME MOVER
This is the Interdependency Principle applied to muscle segments, like upper and middle pecs, instead of muscle groups, like chest and triceps. The upper and middle pecs are interdependent in this way:
To work upper pecs, you only need to use
To work the middle pecs, you need to use
MIDDLE PECS AND UPPER and LOWER PECS
In other words, the upper and lower pecs function as synergists when middle pecs are functioning as prime mover.
Remember the rule: If a muscle segment is going to be called on to function as synergist, avoid working it as prime mover first. You would be breaking the rule if you worked upper or lower pecs before middle pecs. And as a result, upper or lower pec fatigue would limit middle pec work.
The Interdependency Principle calls for exercising middle pecs first. That way you can exhaust the middles completely, and then work the uppers and lowers to their limit with exercises concentrating on them. And you receive a bonus: the upper and lower pecs, fatigued from functioning as synergists, don't need to be pushed as hard to get a good workout!
The Interdependency Principle should be used when structuring the routine for each bodypart. It guarantees greater gains with less work by making each exercise enhance the effectiveness of every other exercise.