There are a million different opinions on whether cardio or strength training should be done first during a workout session. And the short answer is, each offers their own advantages depending on your expected outcome. However, here at Holloway, we’d like to take a middle seat and explain the logic and science behind each side of this long debated question.
Define Your Goal
Just like any other goal in life, it’s important to establish a clear objective. Are you looking to gain heart health or massive muscle? Do you want to tone your arms and legs or lose excess body fat? Knowing exactly what you have in mind will help sculpt the perfect exercise program catered to what you and your body likes best. There is not one standard workout plan that works across the board. Everyone has different expectations and ideas of what a workout looks like.
Benefits: Strength Training First
Many people see the benefits of strength training first to be much higher. In fact, it’s the more agreed upon system.
When you’re weight training, your body requires glycogen stores. However, cardio requires even more glycogen stores. After you finish a cardio workout, you barely have any stores left, and your energy will be little to none. By strength training first, your body can better utilize the glycogen.
Another theory is that it’s much more difficult to gain muscle after a hard cardio session. Your body’s capability to build muscle, also known as protein synthesis, drops after a cardio session. This means that you won’t get nearly the results that you were looking for from the weights.
Strength training is all about pushing your body to its limits, and small gains have a lasting impact. When you begin your workout, your body is much more capable of providing the extra push that can benefit your strength training in the long run. If you wait until after cardio, many times you may feel drained, spent and no longer capable of those little victories.
Benefits: Cardio First
You may be thinking by now, when is it ever ok to do cardio before lifting? Let us explain. First, cardio may be more appropriate before lifting only in certain exercise programs. It’s effective for fat burn, and if that’s your goal, then you probably want to get the most results out of your cardio sessions.
Like we said, lifting exhausts your muscles. That could result in not being able to put nearly as much gusto into your cardio. This gives you the opposite result of what you desired; you’re building muscle mass but not shaving off those extra pounds you were hoping to.
Another vote for cardio first: For those looking to enhance their strength training, beginning with a brief bout of cardio gets your heart pumping which in turn gets your blood flowing. This additional blood flow makes its way into your muscles, increasing the effectiveness of each lift.
An Alternative Option
The conflict between cardio and strength training lies within your body’s energy stash. Because of this, some trainers choose to completely separate the two exercises altogether and alternate days of cardio and strength training. This time gap allows your body to refill its resources and perform to its maximum every day.
Another option is to allow one to be dominant during each workout. That way, you’re improving muscle memory by not skipping a strength training session. Alternatively, your heart is much happier when it gets to beat hard, even if only for a short period of time.
You Do You
When it comes down to it, nobody can tell you what your body can handle; you know yourself best. If you end a cardio session feeling utterly drained, maybe next time you should consider strength training first. However the biggest word of advice is to listen to your body and stay tuned to what is or isn’t working. As you begin to tailor your workout, check out our activewear that is just as versatile as your routine. Utilize these tips from Holloway and discover your workout’s full potential.