Cardio or weights: which should you do first?

Cardio or weights: which should you do first?

People have strong views about all kinds of areas of health and fitness. One big talking point is whether you should do weights or cardio first in your workout protocol. What should be said up front is that the science has already shown that doing both is better overall than doing one or the either alone. So with that said, it’s important to maximise both the cardio and the weights facilities at Hammer’s Gym. Get into everything we have to offer guys. But the big question is, which one goes first?

Some reasoning is that you want to have as much energy as possible for your weights component of the regime, so you should do weights first. Then once you’ve depleted all of your glycogen stores, you can then tap straight into your fat stores while doing your cardio second.

Others say that this is just a bit of ‘bro science,’ and cardio works better first as it warms up your body, gets the blood flowing and primes you for your weights work.

Well, someone has gone and done the research and the findings were interesting to say the least. They had 34 physically active and healthy men perform either endurance immediately followed by strength work, or vice versa.

Training in the study was supervised by qualified instructors using the principles of progressive overload (see web link for a complete description of the training program). Endurance work was conducted using a cycle ergometer, and strength training included exercises for all major muscle groups. Pre-and-post training participants completed tests for aerobic capacity (cycle ergometer) and muscle strength (1RM leg press). Venous blood samples were also analysed for blood lipids levels and several body composition components (such as, lean muscle mass, cross-sectional area of the thigh muscle and total fat mass) were assessed by participants undergoing a DEXA scan.

The results showed that both groups saw improvements in aerobic capacity and also muscle mass increase. In fact, they showed no statistical difference in their improvements. So, what does that mean? It means it doesn’t matter in which order you do them, as long as you do them both.

On the surface, this might seem like an underwhelming result, which won’t help to solve arguments in the gym. In fact, these results can really help Hammer’s members, but also the PTs working out on the gym floor. One important component of any exercise regime is to keep things interesting so that people keep working out. Therefore, mixing up the order of your strength and cardio work, or doing a pretty intense circuit of both aerobic and weight work, means you are getting the benefits of both worlds and not losing out at all.

So, the next time you walk into the gym and feel like doing your cardio first, or your weights first, but are worried that you’ll get less benefit with one way or the other, don’t. Do you what you feel like, because what matters most, is that you get it done.