So you want to get in shape – and by “shape” I mean lean muscle and low body fat, not a pear-shaped body. You’ve heard that doing cardio before weights is the way to go. Before you hit the treadmill, though, here’s what you need to know about this workout prescription.
Before Weights: The Traditional Advice
For decades, the conventional wisdom was to do your aerobic exercise – jogging, biking, running stairs, etc. – before you lifted weights in order to burn more fat while building up your cardiovascular system.
However, there are some problems with this approach. For one thing, you’re already warmed up from your cardio workout, so it’s much easier to injure yourself while lifting weights. Secondly, the aerobic exercise might burn more calories at the time (and help you lose weight faster), but if you’re in a calorie deficit and doing more cardio than strength training, then you will lose muscle in addition to fat.
After Weights: A Shift in Thinking
Based on this research, weight lifting experts now suggest that you do your strength-training workouts before running or cycling. This way, your muscles are primed to handle the resistance of weights and you’ll be less likely to injure yourself while doing the exercises because you won’t be as tired.
Of course, there are some caveats with this approach as well. For one thing, if you push yourself too hard with weights before cardio (or any other type of exercise), it can result in overtraining which will stall your progress. Also, if you lift for an hour then do a 20-minute run or bike ride right afterwards, then most of the calories burned during that workout come from the glycogen stored in your muscles, not stored body fat.
When you break down muscle with resistance training, your metabolism revs up and burns more energy even when you’re sitting around doing nothing (known as TEF or “thermic effect of feeding”). Since additional calorie burning is one of the main reasons why people exercise – whether it’s to lose weight or improve their health – this is a significant benefit for many people.
In general, then, what it comes down to is this: If losing weight faster is your goal – whether it’s for a special event or just to look better in that bathing suit – then doing cardio first is the way to go. If you want to get as lean and muscular as possible, then lift weights before cardio. And if your primary goal is weight loss but you have limited time each day for exercising, then do full-body strength workouts first followed by cardio later on.
Working Out Your Other Options
Even though I advise people to do their strength workouts first and cardio second, there are other options depending on the type of exercise you prefer. For example, if you love to swim laps but hate biking or jogging – or vice versa – then simply alternate between them during your workout split (e.g., swimming, biking, weight training, swimming, biking, etc.).
And keep in mind that you can do more than one form of cardio each day. For example, some people love to run but don’t have enough time to go for a long run at lunchtime or after work. If that sounds like you then try doing sprints during your workout since they require less time and give you great results. Another option is to alternate between slow cardio (e.g., jogging) and fast-paced cardio (e.g., sprinting). You could also use non-traditional forms of cardio on the days when you don’t feel like going outside to jog or hitting the gym for weight training – as playing tennis with friends, doing yoga with your girlfriend or boyfriend, or jumping rope in the living room are all great ways to get moving.
By prioritizing exercise first thing in the morning when you’re not yet dehydrated and fatigued from a day of work or classes, you can reap great benefits from both strength training and cardio.
When strength training and cardio are done together – especially early in the morning before your body has been depleted by a long day – it’s a win-win for your weight loss regimen. You’ll burn more calories during and after your workout compared to when cardio is done on their own.
But that’s not all: A 2011 study found that women who combined cardio and resistance training lost five times as much fat as those doing just weights or just cardio alone. Another found that combining the two led to twice as much fat loss over 12 weeks than if subjects did one or the other alone – and they lost four times as much visceral fat, the unhealthy type surrounding your internal organs that leads to chronic disease.
The Best Cardio Plan
So now you know: If you’re trying to lose weight fast by getting ripped and fighting flab, do both forms of exercise in a single training session rather than separating cardio from strength workouts. What about the order? Try both and see what works best for your body! Doing both cardio and strength training in one session will maximize your time and energy expenditure so you get better results.
Sources: http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy-living-article/60/1129/should-cardio-be-done-before-or-after-weighs/, by Jeffrey A. Krames, MS, RD
Should Cardio Be Done Before Weights? http://www.muscleforlife.com/should-cardio-be-done-before-weights/#ixzz3VIIMQIeF