Haute Pro Tips: Cardio Before or After Lifting?

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Everyone wants to maximize his or her training. A combination of weight training and cardio has been shown to improve both overall fitness and aesthetics. However, these two different training modalities have different adaptation pathways and will, therefore, have an interference effect in which performing one type of training negatively affects the results of the other and vise versa. From a physiological adaptation standpoint, training cardio and weights during the same training session may not be ideal, but logistics is always the trump card. This leads to the question of which of the sequences is the lesser of the two evils in order to efficiently and effectively achieve your goals?

The answer simply depends what your goal actually is. For those looking to increase size and strength or to lose fat the evidence points toward performing weights before cardio. A study had subjects perform both weight training before endurance training and endurance training before weight training. Two important findings from this study were that endurance training before weight training decreased the anabolic effect of the resistance exercise and the cardio performed after increased inflammation and protein breakdown in the working muscles. These interferences directly negatively affect those in which lean muscle mass is at a premium. This also includes those attempting to lose weight as resting metabolic rate, the highest contributor to daily energy expenditure, is related to the amount of lean mass an individual possesses.

However, the recommendation for performing resistance training before endurance training is not for everyone. Another study looked into the effect of training the two methods together in different sequences but measured different variables than the research mentioned above. This study focused more on the metabolic effects of concurrent (both resistance and endurance) training sessions and found that the aerobic abilities of the working muscles when endurance training was performed first. This indicates that training cardio before weights is suggested for those whom endurance adaptations is more important than muscle size or strength such as endurance enthusiasts or those attempting to improve general fitness.

Exercise and movement are an important part of any lifestyle and daily performance has a wide array of mental, emotional and physical health benefits. With busy schedules and multiple priorities, finding time to workout is not easy for many people. Thus, combining resistance and endurance training within one session is often necessary, and even recommended. However, like many other training variables, the sequence of the two training methods has a direct effect on the training results. In addition, similar to the other training variables such as load, volume, rest, etc., the sequence is dictated by the intended training goal. Performing the most relevant method, resistance training, first, optimizes increasing strength, muscle gain and fat loss. In contrast, for those whom aerobic adaptations, such as endurance athletes and those requiring general fitness, prioritizing cardio training and performing this method first will lead to the best results.

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