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Cardio before Weights? Or Vice Versa? By Jeff May

Two of the most widely used components of any exercise or fitness program are aerobic (or cardio) training, and resistance training. There are many misconceptions about both forms of training, but perhaps the most frequent questions have to do with the compatibility of the two forms with each other. Is one better than the other? Can you do both of them in the same workout? Which will help lose weight faster?

Both forms of training put different stresses on our body, through the different muscle fibers used, the nature of and frequency of the muscle contractions, and the energy systems utilized to fuel those contractions. As a result, our bodies respond and adapt differently to different forms of training. Aerobic training is effective in increasing cardiorespiratory fitness and promoting energy expenditure, while resistance exercise can stimulate the body to increase muscle mass, strength, and power. For those looking to improve their general fitness, both forms are recommended to achieve the greatest health benefits. This training, termed concurrent training, can be achieved in a number of ways, including same day splits (one workout in the morning and one in the evening), during separate workouts (aerobic Monday, resistance Tuesday, and so on), or during the same workout (usually one after the other). For most people wanting to maximize their time at the gym, concurrent training during the same workout will most often be used. This allows us to reap the benefits of both types of training in a shorter amount of time. The question then becomes, which should you do first? The answer to that question depends on what your focus in the gym is.

Aerobic Exercise followed by Resistance Exercise:

In most studies on the subject, increases in cardiorespiratory fitness and aerobic power are greater when aerobic exercise is completed first. Further studies have also seen that the delayed onset muscle soreness commonly felt after resistance training can be reduced by completing aerobic exercise first, by possibly increasing blood flow toward working muscle. Finally, studies have also found that the increased metabolic activity of the body that exists after we’ve stopped working out (referred to as excess postexercise oxygen consumption) is often greater when aerobic exercise is completed first. This can be of important note to those wishing to lose weight!

Resistance Exercise followed by Aerobic Exercise:

Resistance training prior to aerobic exercise allows our muscles to work in the absence of any exercise related fatigue. This theoretically allows us to achieve greater gains in muscle size and strength than if they were completed after tiring cardio work. Using this method can also be beneficial for older adults, whose decreased aerobic capacity can often be attributed to a reduced muscle mass.

So which method of concurrent training is best? Like all training choices, that depends on your personal needs. The two methods described above will both elicit positive physiological adaptations; however there are some unique advantages associated with each one. Take the time to determine what your goals are, and then find the best way to achieve them. And always, if you have any questions about the information here, contact me at, or set up your free 15 minute consult.

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