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Muscle group you train first grows fastest

The muscle groups that you pay attention to first during your workout grow and gain relatively more strength than the other muscle groups. Sports scientists at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro discovered this after doing an experiment on untrained men.

Muscle group you train first grows fastest
The Brazilians recruited 31 students from the Brazilian Navy Sergeants School and divided them into three groups: the LG-SM group, the SM-LG group and a control group.

The control group did nothing.

The LG-SM group did weight training for 12 weeks. During their workout the subjects started with the barbell bench press, then did lat-pulldowns, followed by the triceps extension machine and lastly a standing biceps curl with a straight bar. The subjects did four sets of each exercise. For the first four weeks of the experiment the subjects used weights at which they could perform 12-25 repetitions. Then they went up to weights at which they could manage 8-10 reps. Between sets they rested for two minutes.

The SM-LG group trained in exactly the same way. But they did the exercises in a different order. This lot first trained their biceps, then their triceps, then their lats and lastly their pecs.

The table below shows the gains in the strength for the different groups. It shows the changes in weight at which the subjects were able to make one rep. The figures marked with an asterisk show the increases that were statistically significant.




Bench press (1RM)




Lat pulldown (1RM)




Triceps extension (1RM)




Biceps curl (1RM)




The researchers also made scans of the subjects' arms and used them to measure the increase in circumference of the biceps and triceps. There's a scan at the top of the page.




Triceps (cm)




Biceps (cm)




"Based on the 1RM strength gains and effect size results of the current study, it appears exercises that are particularly important for the training goals of a program should be placed at the beginning of the training session, whether or not it is a large or a small muscle group exercise", the researchers conclude.

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2010) 9, 1-7.

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