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Mar 5, 2012

Cardio Before or After Weight Training?

When I first started working out, I had this question in my mind – Should I do cardiovascular exercise before or after my resistance training?
Some said I should do it before the weight lifting because it helps to warm up my body. Another school of thought believes that, in order to lift heavier weight, I should conserve the energy and therefore, cardiovascular exercise should only be done after that.
After talking to different personal trainers and based on my experience, I have summarized pro and con of each approach – why before and why after weight training?

1) Why Before Weight Training?

If you are trying to get your weights and cardiovascular exercise done in one session, doing a light cardio for muscle warm-up will actually encourages you to move right into high-intensity lifting without having to do as many warm-up sets.
Also, if you are training for an endurance competitions like half-marathon or triathlon, you should do cardio before any other workout. That way, you use the most energy and effort into the session to produce optimal performance results.

2) Why After Training Weight Training?

Once the cardio is done, the quality of your lifting will most likely suffer. Your energy sources may be used up. Since you reap the most benefit from the last two or three reps of weight lifting, it is essential that you have the necessary energy to achieve those reps. That fuel may not be available if you do a hard cardio workout prior to your weight training. Consistently training in a weakened state actually lead to decrease in strength over time because it discourages your muscles from being adequately challenged. Cardio burns fat and carbs. If you do your cardio first, the carbs may not be there to fuel your weight training. So, if you want to build muscle, you should do weight training first.
Also, another reason some people believe in – after doing strength training and when it is stopped abruptly, blood tends to accumulate in the lower body. With reduced blood return, cardiac output decreases and lightheadedness may occur. Because muscle movement helps to get the blood back to the heart, it is good to continue some muscle activity. Easy cycling, walking, or any other cardiovascular exercise at low intensity will be recommended as cool-down activity after weight training.

So How?

No right or wrong. If you are at the stage of bulking up (as I do now), do the cardio after the workout. Otherwise when you are at the so called cutting or toning phase, you can do your cardiovascular exercise as a warm up before you hit the irons.If you want to build muscles yet prefer to do cardio first, the other option will be replace the used fuel with a sports drink or energy bar before you start the weights training.

Last but not least, that is another school of thought – doing cardio and weight training on separate days. I have not tried this method before and I would like hear from you if you ever do so.
In conclusion, cardiovascular exercise is required, not matter what. It is good to build the stamina and burn the fat. Do not get too hung up on this whole idea. Change the order to suit you occasionally. Doing cardio or after weight training is not a theory or a new law. If you feel good doing cardio before lifting weight and if you progress well, just do it.