A question that I am frequently asked and one I have seen countless times on message boards across the world wide web is whether someone should do cardiovascular exercise before or following a resistance training exercise? Before going any further, I want to clearly state that it is my position that everyone should engage in a cardiovascular exercise of the decision for 5 to 10 minutes prior to any exercise, be it a cardiovascular, resistance or flexibility workout. Warming up with cardio also raises the core temperature slightly, increases circulation, slightly elevates the heart rate and helps to prepare the heart for an increased workload, it helps boost lung functioning and helps to mentally focus in on the upcoming workout routine. The most significant benefit to warming up with light intensity cardio is the substantial decline in risk of injury.
Back to the question of whether you should do aerobic exercise prior to or following a resistance workout? There is no single best answer here and instead, you need to evaluate your personal fitness goals. If you goal is to increase endurance, stamina or overall cardiovascular health, then I suggest doing your cardio workout before weight and weight training. By doing the cardio workout first (after your 5 to 10 minute warm up of course), you have the ability to take part in a more intense cardio workout, which possibly might include some intervals where you really push up to your lactic acid threshold or VO2 max level. It’s not as probable that you would be able to reach high intensity cardiovascular work after you’ve participated in a weight training session. So, in summary if your goal is to increase cardiovascular fitness levels, you need to perform cardio workouts prior to resistance training.
On the other hand, if your objective is weight and fat loss, a current mode of thinking in the fitness community is by doing a cardiovascular workout after a resistance exercise, you increases the rate of fat metabolism (fat burn because it is often referred to as). The theory is that by engaging in an intense resistance workout, you will deplete the glycogen stores in the muscles during this workout. Endurance athletes have long know this, however generally in order for this to happen in endurance training, an athlete must continuously run for about 90 minutes to completely deplete the muscles of glycogen. And so, I remain somewhat skeptical that many ordinary people exercising are pushing themselves to the purpose of glycogen depletion during their resistance workout, especially workouts of less than an hour in duration. For more advanced What does Possum Poop Look Like, I do believe that it is possible and therefore can be an effective means of decreasing body fat perhaps for these individuals.
I tend to look at it like this, if you are engaging in a cardiovascular and resistance exercise on the same day back-to-back, one or the other will be of a lesser intensity level naturally. Again, evaluate your individual fitness goals before deciding whether to perform your cardio workouts before or after resistance training. If you are trying to build muscle, you want to have as much muscle strength as you can available for your resistance workouts, therefore doing cardio before weight training could be counterproductive to your muscle building goals. If you are seeking to get endurance or heart health, put your focus on the cardio workouts and do them first. Remember, regardless of which you wind up doing first, it is more important to properly warm up with a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes of cardio (even if it’s just a brisk walk on the treadmill) in order to prepare the body for the workouts beforehand, to get your head in the right space in order to bang out a productive workout, and most importantly to decrease the possibility of injury. This debate won’t mean a thing if you become injured 5 minutes into a workout and are sidelined for another 8 weeks rehabilitating an injury!