I have received the above question quite a few times. If I do both cardio and strength training in one day, is there a better one to do first? Well, I’ll give you my two cents on the subject. Before I give my thoughts on the topic, however, I’ll share a couple of the common claims I have heard behind doing one before the other.
Claims to do Cardio First
- acts as a warm-up to prepare your body for strength training
- burn more overall calories for the workout, since you have more energy for the cardio (which typically burns more calories during the workout)
Claims to do Strength First
- your body burns more fat for fuel during the cardio since it used glycogen during the strength training
- body isn’t tired for the strength workout, so you can use proper form without fatiguing as easily
There is a whole slew of information I could go into about some of these (like Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption and the body’s use of glycogen) to say that the above claims aren’t substantial enough to truly put one combination over the other. I’ll save those topics in more detail for a rainy day, though.
The biggest factors that should impact this decision?
a) which combination will best fit your goals and
b) which combination will give you the most motivation to complete your workout
For someone who loathes cardio, he or she may benefit from doing the cardio training first so as not to skip it after a strength workout. For someone with a goal to increase cardiovascular health and endurance, it may also be more beneficial to do that part of the workout first to give it the more concentrated effort.
On the flip side, someone with a goal to increase muscular strength may find better results in his or her training by having more energy for the strength portion of the workout. Or a cardio lover who hates to hit the weights could do the strength training first to ensure it gets done.
Whatever combination you choose, prepare yourself to adapt your workout intensity as the workout goes on – so you may have to lift lighter weights if you did a session of sprints first, or you may need to go at a lighter intensity in spin class if you pounded out some serious squats beforehand.
Also, don’t negate the fact that you can still have a quality training plan by splitting these two workouts into separate days. You can certainly reap the fitness rewards by completing strength and cardiovascular workouts on alternate days. That is still great! You could also have a combined effort by incorporating techniques like circuit or metabolic training to get a cardiovascular component along with strength gains. It all boils down to what works for YOU and your goals and your schedule. Just get out there and move!
Your Turn – How do YOU prefer to combine cardio and strength? Or do you separate them? Why?