Weight or Cardio: Which Comes First?

It’s an age-old debate amongst health and fitness enthusiasts: weights first, or cardio first? Some people swear by hopping on the treadmill as soon as they hit the gym, while others are adamant about hitting the weights first. Maybe you fall on either end of the spectrum, or maybe, like millions of others, you’re wondering why the heck it even matters.

Regardless of your stance on the subject, you can’t argue with science. So, to help alleviate the confusion surrounding this long-standing argument, let’s talk about what science has to say.

Strength and Muscle Gains

If you’re looking to gain muscle or add more weight to the bar, this should come as no surprise: weights win. According to one study performed on elite kayakers, prioritizing weight training before cardio resulted in significant improvements in both strength and power. The kayakers were also able to increase their aerobic capacity by training this way.

Another study published at the School of Physical Education in British Columbia compared the effects of resistance training after cardio, to resistance training alone. The researchers found that those who performed cardio before lifting weights decreased the number of reps they were able to perform on specific exercises. The effect was confined to the muscle groups used during cardio, but it was detrimental nonetheless. So basically, if you want to increase your muscle mass or squat and deadlift more, it’s a bad idea to hop on the elliptical before you load up the bar.

Want to Lose Weight?

If you’re looking to burn more fat and you’re running away to nowhere on that treadmill, you might be shooting yourself in the foot. Of course, that’s not to say cardio won’t help you burn fat; it’s just not the most effective or efficient way to see results.

In fact, a study published by the University of Tokyo found that weight lifting could significantly boost fat loss. In this study, subjects who lifted weights before using the cardio equipment were able to increase the amount of fat they burned during cardio, versus performing cardio alone.

Another study examined the effect of concurrent resistance and endurance training on obese subjects. What did they find? Resistance training enhances the fat loss effect of cardiovascular training. So, if you’ve spent hours slogging away on the treadmill or elliptical and just aren’t seeing the results you want, try lifting weights, too. You may just be surprised at the outcome.

When Cardio Comes First

According to science, we’ve determined that lifting weights first is probably the better choice. However, there is a time when cardio should take precedence. Cardio should come first if you’re training for cardiovascular conditioning.

If you’re young and healthy and want to run a marathon or grind your way through a triathlon, then cardio first is the way to go. However, if you’re more advanced in age and are looking to improve your aerobic capacity, you might want to do things the other way around. A 2011 study found that elderly subjects who performed resistance training before cardio were able to significantly increase their VO2 max. Why the difference? As humans age, they begin to lose muscle mass. As muscle mass is lost, aerobic capacity diminishes. However, by performing resistance training first, elderly trainees can maintain more muscle, leading to an increase in VO2 max.

What’s the Consensus?

So what’s the real answer here? Well, it’s highly subjective. If you want a concrete answer, you have to determine what your goal is. You can’t be a jacked bodybuilder or have nice muscular, round glutes and also expect to dominate a marathon or triathlon.

For overall health, wellness, muscle building, and strength, resistance training comes first. For endurance, cardio comes first. Whatever you choose, just make sure you’re training for your goals. Keep it consistent and watch as your body (and health) transforms!

If you’re still unsure about which route to take, or which may be the best one for you, Titanz Fitness has got your back. We will make sure to pair you up with the trainer that’s right for you in order to create a plan that meets your fitness and nutritional goals. Contact us today for a free fitness evaluation with one of our expert trainers in Smyrna.

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