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Cardio Before or After Weight Training?

Cardio Before or After Weight Training?
01 Dec

You may have wondered whether you should do cardio before or after your weight training and the answer is….it depends on your individual needs and fitness goals. This is a hot debate in the health and fitness space because there isn’t a right answer to this question.

First, I want to clarify this is not an either/or question.

You should do a mix of cardio and weight training in your weekly fitness routine. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults have at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity cardio per week, and strength training at least twice a week. Depending on your fitness program, this could mean many different combinations of cardio and strength training. However, this article discusses combining weight training and cardio into one exercise session at the gym.

In general, if you’re looking to build strength, it’s best to perform cardio after strength training. When you are lifting heavy weights, your body will need all the energy available in order to move the load with proper form. Doing a bunch of cardio before lifting, may make you tired, sweaty and fatigue your muscles which will increase your risk of injury.

A study published in the the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (JSCR) found when a person does high intensity cardio before strength training, they could not perform as many weight lifting reps and it ultimately impared their strength performance.

Additionally, if your goal is weight loss, you should perform cardio after strength training. Researchers have found that you can burn more fat doing cardio after weight training in a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Since weight lifting is an anaerobic exercise (breaks down glucose in the body without using oxygen), low-intensity aerobic cardio (uses oxygen) is the best type of cardio to pair with it. Activities like walking, biking, rowing, using the elliptical are classified under this type of cardio. The important thing is to do an activity you like so you can enjoy it and stay consistent with your routine. You will also find success choosing a variety of activities to avoid overuse injuries.

However, one case for doing cardio before weight training is to warm-up the body before movement. Warming up before training can be effective after a long day of sitting and inactivity to increase blood flow throughout the muscles. It’s recommended to warm-up for 10-15 minutes at a low-intensity before exercise.

Lastly, don’t forget that you don’t have to do weight training and cardio on the same day. Many people find success alternating days of weight training and cardio in order for their body to easily adapt to each activity. Find a program that combines cardiovascular exercise with strength training that’s right for you!

If you’re still undecided, here are some quick answers based on common fitness goals, according to the American Council on Exercise.

Is your goal to improve your endurance?Cardio First
Is your goal burning fat or losing weight?Strength Training First
Is your goal to get stronger?Strength Training First
Are you doing upper-body lifting today?Either
Are you doing lower-body lifting today?Strength Training First
Do you have a general fitness goal with no emphasis on strength or endurance?Either

If you’d like to learn more about effective weight training programs to reach your fitness goals, contact me or other Evolve Fitness trainers.

Sophie Podhaisky, Certified Personal Trainer