A question that I am frequently asked and one I have seen countless times on message boards across the world wide web is whether a person should do cardiovascular exercise before or after a resistance training workout? Before going any farther, I want to clearly state it is my position that everyone should engage in a cardiovascular exercise of the decision for 5 to 10 minutes prior to any exercise, be it a cardiovascular, resistance or flexibility workout. Warming up with cardio also increases the core temperature slightly, increases circulation, slightly elevates the heart rate and helps to prepare the heart for an increased workload, it helps increase lung functioning and helps to mentally focus in on the upcoming workout routine. The most significant benefit to warming up with light intensity cardio is the significant decrease in risk of injury.
Now back to the question of whether you should do cardiovascular exercise prior to or following a resistance workout? There’s no single best answer here and instead, you need to evaluate your individual fitness objectives. If you aim is to increase endurance, endurance or general cardiovascular health, then I suggest doing your cardio workout before weight and weight training. By doing the cardio workout (following your 5 to 10 minute warm up of course), you have the ability to engage in a more intense cardio workout, which possibly might incorporate some intervals where you really push to your lactic acid threshold or VO2 max level. It’s not as likely that you would have the ability to reach high intensity cardiovascular work after you have participated in a weight training session. So, in summary if your objective is to increase cardiovascular fitness levels, you need to perform cardio workouts before resistance training.
On the other hand, if your goal is weight and fat loss, a current mode of thinking in the fitness community is by doing a cardiovascular workout after a resistance exercise, you increases the rate of fat metabolism (fat burn because it’s often called ). The theory is that by engaging in an intense resistance workout, you’ll deplete the glycogen stores in the muscles during this workout. Once the glycogen stores are depleted, the body begins to utilize fats in the body for fuel. Endurance athletes have long know this, however generally in order for this to occur in endurance training, an athlete has to continuously run for approximately 90 minutes to fully deplete the muscles of glycogen. And so, I remain somewhat skeptical that many ordinary people exercising are pushing themselves to the purpose of glycogen depletion during their resistance workout, especially workouts of under one hour in duration. For more advanced trainers, I do believe that it is possible and therefore may be an effective way of decreasing body fat maybe for these individuals.
I tend to look at it like this, if you are engaging in a cardiovascular and resistance exercise on the same day back-to-back, one or the other will be of a lesser intensity level naturally. Again, evaluate your individual fitness goals before deciding whether to do your cardio workouts prior to or after resistance training. If you are attempting to build muscle, you want to have as much muscle strength as possible for your resistance workouts, therefore doing cardio before weight training would be counterproductive to your muscle building objectives. If you are seeking to get endurance or heart health, place your focus on the cardio workouts and do them . Remember, regardless of which you end up doing first, it is more important to properly warm up with a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes of cardio (even if it’s only a brisk walk on the treadmill) in order to prepare the body for the workouts ahead, to get your head in the right space in order to bang out a productive workout, and most importantly to lower the risk of injury. This debate will not mean a thing if you get injured 5 minutes into a workout and are sidelined for another 8 weeks rehabilitating an injury!