Cardio… Before Or After Weight Training?

Posted on June 6th, 2013 at 5:12 am by

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US Navy 041110-N-0413R-001 Machinist Mate 3rd Class Lorne Semrau of Harrisburg, Pa., keeps in shape while underway by working out one of the many treadmills aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68)If you step into any health club, you are likely to see individuals proceeding directly to the cardio machines.  They might devote around 20 minutes for cardio and then go straight into their weight training workout.  Others will finish their weightlifting routine before delving into their cardio workout.  Which is better?  We will find out!

We all know that cardiovascular exercise is necessary to burn fat but we might be uncertain how to sequence our workouts to fit our personal objectives.  Getting cardio out of the way before weight training is the preference for a lot of people.  After a day of work, it appears as if a good jog can get the blood moving and provide that energy to begin strength training.  Our individual goals will help us to know where cardio and weight training fits into our exercise routine.

Weights Ahead of Cardio

As the intensity of cardio increases, we begin to use carbohydrates for energy.  Glycolysis produces energy from carbohydrates creating glycogen.  The energy source will progressively move back to fats after a period of time of continuous effort.  It is likely our glycogen supplies that are needed for lifting weights may be used up if we do our cardio routine first.  If that energy is consumed then we won’t have the energy needed to lift heavy weight to induce muscle strength and size.

A recommended sequence for an exercise workout might be:

  1. A brief warm up on a treadmill, exercise bike, or elliptical machine.  (Keep in mind this is a warm up, don’t go all out.)
  2. Weight training which focuses on free weights and compound movements i.e. overhead presses, squats, etc.
  3. Cardio when your glycogen supplies are at their lowest point so that your body will begin utilizing fat for energy.

Cardiovascular exercise right before weights

It is physiologically less difficult for you to do your cardio session before weights.  It’s likely that you might forget about your cardio if you wait until after your weight training session.  In the event that you decide to do your cardio after weightlifting, your legs will undoubtedly be exhausted which will make running, biking, or whatever much more difficult.  You might not be able to go at it as hard as if you had begun with cardio.

As study involving 10 people found that the calories that continue to be burned after exercise is greater when cardio was done before a strength training routine.   This is apparently beneficial for weight reduction.  However, bear in mind that this was just one small study involving ten test subjects.  Definitely not the basis for decisive facts.

Cardio before or after weight training will likely be a debatable subject for a long time, but, let’s wrap up based on what we understand:

If You Want to Build Muscle and Burn Fat

To build muscle and burn fat at the same time, weight train first while glycogen resources are available.  Allocate your efforts to weight training.

If You Want to Lose Weight

To shed weight do cardio first to obtain maximum post exercise caloric burn.  Commit your efforts to cardio.

If You Are After Pure Strength

If you are after pure strength always do your cardio following weights.  It might be wise to do cardio on a separate day.

Final Thoughts

The decision is really up to you.  Don’t get too stuck on this.  Do what is best for you.

In the event that you want to reach a particular goal, research how the arrangement of your training will influence this.  Of course, much is dependent on your daily schedule.  Getting involved in boot camp activities are excellent methods to complete cardiovascular as well as strength training exercises.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Shannon E. Renfroe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About the Author

Chad Jones is the ower of Fitness Holiday Asia, providers of fitness holidays.  A boot camp holiday is a great way for people to have fun while getting in shape.

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