Jun 18, 2018

Strength Training or Cardio First: What is the Correct Exercising Order?

The most often debated question in the world of fitness is which one comes first: strength or cardio training? This is also one of the most common question fitness instructors in professional gyms get from newcomers.

Sadly, there’s no single answer to that question. Most fitness experts have a different opinion, and while they agree on certain aspects, in the end, they rarely agree on this topic. There are certainly studies to support both sides of the argument.

However, the correct order usually depends on your goals, therefore the answer to this question is different from case to case. So when it comes to choosing the correct order for your gym classes, should you prioritize strength over cardio or vice versa? Read on to learn more.

Exercising to Lose Weight

If the reason you enrolled in the gym to lose weight, both experts and studies agree you should prioritize strength training over cardio. This was proven correct through multiple studies, including one published in the Science and Sports Journal in 2015.

The study compared weightlifting before cardio and cardio before weightlifting. The results of the study unequivocally proved that the former was more effective in weight loss. However, experts advise that this refers to low-intensity, steady cardio workouts.

Additionally, combining High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with a cardio workout brings even better results in terms of weight loss. The problem is that you cannot do this every day. You should restrict yourself to a maximum of three HIIT and cardio trainings per week.

One of the main reasons is that straight training drains your body of sugars and carbohydrates so that your body uses the excess fat to give you strength for the cardio session. This means that you will burn more calories, and more importantly more fat.

Exercising to Build Strength

If your goal at the gym is to build muscle mass, the answer is strength before cardio again. The main reason behind that is that a cardio workout will leave you exhausted and weaker for your strength training, and there’s numerous research to prove that.

A lot of experts suggest that strength training will prepare your body for a cardio session. And if you put cardio first, your legs (and the whole body for that matter) will be too tired from running or cycling for a proper strength training. Therefore, if your goal is to build muscle mass, it’s better to put your focus and priority on strength training.

Additionally, some claim that doing a cardio session after an intense strength training comes as a reward.

A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology compared the results of doing strength before cardio and vice versa. The results, surprisingly, showed that the order of these training programs did not make much of a difference after 24 weeks. However, it did prove that the group that put their cardio first did suffer from fatigue in the early stages.

Another study published in 2003, however, has shown that people who put cardio before strength training did fewer repetitions involving the muscle groups they used the most during cardio (mostly leg muscles, naturally).

Exercising to Stay Fit and Move More

If your goal at the gym is not to lose weight or build muscle mass, but simply to stay fit and feel energized, the order does not really matter. In this case, the only guidance you should follow is your own.

Do you feel too tired for a strength exercise after cardio? Does cardio work your energy up for a strength training? The answer is different from person to person, so there’s not really the right answer to the question in the title.

After all, if experts cannot agree on a single answer, why should you let what anyone says get in the way of your enjoyment.

If you’re not sure where to start, quality gyms offer a variety of combined classes that include both strength and cardio, so you can mix and match and find the combination that works best for you.

Exercising to Participate in an Event

Are you training to run a marathon or participate in a weightlifting competition? The answer is quite obvious: focus on your priority. If you plan on running a marathon you’re going to have to work on your springing, which means putting more focus on cardio.

The same goes for weightlifting, in which case your priority should be strength training. In this particular case, you don’t want to wear your body out with cardio, so keep those treadmill or cycling sessions to a minimum.

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