Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Cardio or Weights first?
This is a debate that goes on and on. When you have to do cardio and weights in one session which one should you do first? I have read the conflicting research and tried the different alternatives myself and I finally have come to my own conclusion...
The answer, in my opinion, is that it depends completely on what your goals are and what your time and resources permit. If your goal is to be a body builder or to bulk up you should choose differently than someone who wants to focus on cardiovascular endurance. If you can workout several times a week and are not limited to an hour a day it may be best to alternate upper body and lower body workouts and do cardio sessions on separate days.
If you are trying to build muscle and you have to do your workouts all in one session the best thing to do is strength training first with a cardio workout after depending on your training. That way you are more efficient on your lifting and can get the maximum amount of force needed with each repetition.
If you want to lose weight the best area of focus is diet but you will burn more calories with a higher intensity cardio workout before weight training. I have believed differently up until now. I was a believer that strength training should be done first. There is a theory about how strength training burns up glycogen stores to the point that when you finally enter into your cardio workout then you will start tapping into your fat stores. This theory however has been recently debated and thwarted by a nationally published BYU study which examined 4 groups of people. One group who did only strength, one group who did only cardio, and one who did cardio then strength and one that did strength and then cardio. They recommended at the end of the study that cardio then strength burned the most amount of fat. They examined additional factors such as "after-burn" and "running economy". This was the only true study that I could find which examined this specific questions. While I do not think it is wise to base all decisions on one study I think it is important to realize that the "jump starting metabolism" theory may not be correct. It is important to note that if cardio is to be done first it needs to be at a higher intensity than just a "fat burn" or at the point of breaking a sweat. Here is the link to journal article for that study.
The best alternative is to do these activities separately. Or to do a cardio workout for example, that works the legs and then and upper body strength training workout. And then on another day do a cardio workout that works the arms like some bag boxing or swimming and then a lower body strength training workout.
Either way I believe the key is not to get hung up on which one comes first but focus on what a person can do. For example, I teach muscle classes early in the morning. (well not at this moment I am still in recovery) I get up REALLY early and get around 3 miles of running in before my class I then teach the strength training class and return to the treadmill or track and I get 3-5 more miles in. It is what I have to do to meet my goals and my options are limited with my little family. I have to do it all before they wake up. I like to be there for them in the mornings. In the end what is best comes to our own resources, goals and our abilities.