Women's Journal

The Great Cardio Debate: Should You Do It Before or After Weight Training?

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Expert Tips to Maximize Your Fitness Goals

The never-ending debate of whether to do cardio before or after weight training has puzzled fitness enthusiasts for years. Some prefer to get their cardio out of the way first, while others prioritize strength training when their energy levels are at their peak. However, trainers have valuable advice to help you decide how to structure your workouts based on your specific goals. In this article, we’ll explore the expert recommendations on when to do cardio before or after weight training to maximize your fitness results.

Arranging Your Workout Based on Your Goals:

To determine whether to do cardio before or after weight training, it’s essential to understand your fitness goals. Here are some expert recommendations based on common objectives:

1. Better Endurance: If your goal is to improve endurance, it’s best to do cardio before weight training. This approach ensures that your muscles are not fatigued from weightlifting, allowing you to maintain proper form and reduce the risk of injury.

2. Burning Fat and Losing Weight: If your aim is fat loss, experts suggest doing cardio after weight training. Studies have shown that starting with weightlifting and following it with cardio burns more fat during the initial 15 minutes of the cardio session.

3. Building Strength: For individuals focused on gaining strength, it’s advised to prioritize weight training before cardio. This approach allows you to focus all your energy and mental concentration on lifting weights correctly and avoiding injuries.

4. Upper-Body Strength Training: On days when you’re focusing on upper-body strength training, you can choose to do either cardio or weight training first, depending on personal preference and energy levels.

5. Lower-Body Strength Training: On lower-body strength training days, it’s recommended to do cardio after weight training. This sequence ensures that your leg muscles are not overly fatigued during weightlifting exercises.

6. General Fitness: If your goal is overall fitness without a specific focus, you can choose to do either cardio or weight training first. Consider starting with the one you enjoy less to maintain motivation throughout your workout.

How Often Should You Do Cardio and Weight Training?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week, along with strength training at least twice a week. However, the distribution of these workouts depends on individual goals and schedules.

Fitness experts often recommend weight training three times per week for effective muscle building and fat loss. Low-intensity cardio can be done daily, while higher-intensity cardio should be performed less frequently to allow for adequate recovery.

Considering these guidelines, a sample weekly workout schedule could include:

– Weight Training: 2-4 times per week
– Low-Intensity Cardio: 5-7 times per week
– Moderate-Intensity Cardio: 3-4 times per week
– High-Intensity Cardio: 1-3 times per week

The duration of your cardio sessions should align with your goals. If you’re primarily focusing on strength improvements, a 10- to 15-minute cardio warm-up is sufficient. However, if overall fitness is your aim, there are no real limits to cardio duration, except for personal physical capabilities and scheduling constraints. Remember to adhere to the recommended weekly exercise guidelines to avoid overtraining.

Combining Cardio and Weight Training:

Contrary to traditional workout advice, there’s no reason why you can’t perform cardio and weight training in the same session or split them into two sessions on the same day. In fact, combining them can be a more efficient use of your time.

For example, high-intensity workouts like tabata or bootcamp sessions merge strength and cardiovascular training to deliver results within a shorter timeframe. Research published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research indicates that such combined workouts do not negatively affect you physiologically and may optimize your limited workout time.

If you choose to have two separate workout sessions in one day, ensure you allow enough time for recovery between them. Ideally, there should be approximately eight hours between high-intensity cardio and weightlifting sessions to allow your body to adapt and recover, preventing hindered progress.

Incorporating both cardio and weight training into your workout routine is crucial for achieving your fitness goals. By understanding your objectives, you can determine whether to do cardio before or after weight training. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and your preference and energy levels play a significant role in creating an effective workout plan. So, prioritize your goals, structure your workouts accordingly, and enjoy the benefits of a well-rounded fitness regimen.