Cardio Vs Weight Training - Which Should You Do First?
Posted on June 04 2019
If you are a serious gym-goer and your aim is to get in both strength training and cardio in a single session, which would you choose to do first? Is it Cardio or Strength Training?
A general analysis made on regular gym-goers predicts that most of them choose to do the Cardio before the Strength Training session. They run for hours on a treadmill, then they move to cycling, finally, if there’s any energy left out, they go for lifting.
Some people opt to stay away from lifting weights thinking that it may make them bulky. There are certain other people who fear to do Cardio out of fear that Cardio may cause them to lose muscle mass and undo all the hard work at the gym. Now the question is, does doing Cardio first destroy your gains? Or should you set aside Cardio for a heavier dose of strength? Which is right? I’m sure, you must have never thought of this.
Does the order in which you complete your workout routine make a difference?
No matter, how good we are at understanding exercise science, there are still some topics that seem debatable and require a bit more clarity.
Don’t worry, before you finish reading this article, you’ll have perfect knowledge of the right approach to training.
We often hear people who work out regularly complain about not getting good results. They must remember one thing that our workout has to be truly dependent on our goals. The way you design your workout routine must depend on the aim of your training session and the objective of the training plan.
You may find it complicated to understand if I tell you right away whether to choose Cardio or Weight Training first based on your goals. Let's understand things with a simple science behind.
What Happens If You Do Cardio Before Weight Training?
It’s a known fact that we need the energy to perform better in any workout. But did you know Cardio workout depletes your glycogen stores (energy stores) at a much faster rate as compared to Weight Training?
Just like how the mTOR enzyme is meant to switch on protein synthesis (muscle building), the AMPK (activated protein kinase) activates glucose and fatty acid uptake and oxidation when cellular energy is low.
Studies suggest that doing intense Cardio before a Weight Training activates more of AMPK enzyme, surpassing the mTOR enzyme and as a result, it inhibits the muscle building process but will boost the energy uptake through fat loss process. With this, what you can understand is, doing Cardio before a Weight Training causes you to become physically and mentally fatigued before you grab the weights. The muscle’s ability to generate maximum force gets affected to a great extent.
As a vice versa, if you do Strength Training first, your muscles’ stored carbohydrate (glycogen) gets depleted. This enhances the fat burning during Cardio workout due to the lack of available energy.
Since your muscles can tolerate only a set amount of anaerobic training before getting fatigued, if you’ve depleted your energy stores during the Cardio portion of the workout, you won’t have as much energy left over to build strength.
Plan Your Workout By Prioritizing Your Goal
Goal 1: Better Endurance - Do Cardio First
People who aim for better endurance like athletes and sports people need to choose the Cardio (aerobic) workout first as it is beneficial for generating ATP. Whichever muscle you work out first will benefit the most. If you are cycling, running first, the muscles needed to excel for a faster rate will be stronger. Moreover, if you run for long periods of time at a steady pace, your body will eventually make itself more efficient by reducing muscle size to optimize running.
Goal 2: Want To Build Muscle & Burn Fat - Do Weight Training First
In this case, you should choose the Weight Training first. Do Weight Training for about 45 minutes, perform intense Cardio after weights (make sure to utilize modes of Cardio exercises that hit different muscle groups). Strength Training will tap your aerobic system so that when it’s time to do Cardio, your body will have no other choice but to tap into your fat stores to fuel your workout, within 30 minutes of intense Cardio.
Goal 3: General Fitness & Good Health - Choose either of them
If your goal isn’t about peak performance or maximum weight loss, you have a lot of leeway. If you don’t have an emphasis on strength/endurance, you can choose either of them first. Just keep in mind to do the workout at right intensities and to split your time for both Cardio & Strength Training.
Goal 4: Want To Lose Weight - Do Weight Training First
Here, Weight Training before a Cardio would be a better bet. Doing weights (anaerobic) exercise first leads to a more elevated heart rate, which means bigger calorie burn for your Cardio.
Resistance Training builds more muscles, and the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn at rest. In order to reduce weight, you must burn more calories. This means, your body has to use your stored fat as fuel. But how to achieve this? To achieve this, you must burn off your glycogen stores first. When you weight train, your body uses glycogen as fuel. By weight training first, you can burn the majority of your glycogen stores, so that the body turns to fat to fuel the aerobic workout.
In the end, Cardio/Weight Training first ultimately comes down to your goal.
If you’re looking to get body strength, lose body fat and save time in the gym, lift weights before doing Cardio….
If you want to improve aerobic health and metabolic pathway, choose Cardio first…
Note: Always remember to workout at right intensities. Overdoing anything won’t help. Your body will start to lose muscle if you focus on doing constant low-intensity exercise. At the same time, if you focus only on strength training, you cannot aim for endurance!
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