In which way can you best combine strength training and cardio? Do you start with strength training or with cardio?
What is the correct order in your training; do you start with strength training, or with cardio? I have researched for you the influence of this order on the different training goals.
unfortunately it is more complex than you would initially think. The ideal order of strength training and cardio depends on the training goal and a number of other important factors. Below I explain why there is a difference in the ideal order for someone who wants to lose weight versus someone who wants to build muscle.
If you focus on developing muscle mass, it is best to first do strength training and conclude with cardio.
For endurance, it is best to first do a cardio training and conclude with strength.
For fat burning it is best to apply strength first and then cardio.
Strength training and cardio: energy
When determining the order of the two training methods you must take into account the:
amount of energy that your body has stored and
the fatigue of the muscles.
If your body has already used all energy sources during strength training, it is more difficult to perform a heavy cardio training and you run a greater risk of injury. Furthermore, heavy cardio training is not conducive to performance during a subsequent strength training. If you do very intensive cardio before you train, you will find that you can lift less weight. The extent to which you load a muscle is important for your training progress. For example, it is important for a strength athlete to put a heavy load on the muscles by lifting weights. And for an endurance athlete it is important to give the muscles a completely different endurance training stimulus.
Combine strength training and cardio
Ideally, you must perform strength training and cardio on different days. This gives you more energy for both efforts and allows you to train more focused – with ultimately better results. Of course this is not for everyone because you spend more time. Most athletes will therefore combine strength and cardio in one training moment. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to the question of whether you should start the training with cardio or with strength training; the subject is too complex for this and too little is known about it in scientific literature. I can give you a number of recommendations, which differ per training goal and are mainly based on our training experience.
Important: any strength training you always start with a short cardio session (5-10 minutes) and possibly some extra stretching exercises to warm up the muscles and raise your heart rate. You do this to prevent the risk of injuries such as muscle strain. Later in the article I mean by cardio before training so not a warm-up, but a long-lasting cardio of 20 minutes or more. So you actually (almost) always train a short cardio session for your strength training.
Why combine strength and cardio?
Cardio is basically the “best” method for burning fat because you burn a lot of calories. But long endurance training sessions (cardio) are not for everyone and are rather boring. For that reason I advise the combination of strength and cardio, so that you can become stronger and fitter.
The advice of the combination of strength and cardio is based on the research results of a study in which athletes were divided into three groups (strength scheme, cardio scheme and a combination of both). This revealed that a power plan is good for the development of lean body mass and muscle strength. Cardio provides better endurance and a lower fat percentage. The combination of both provides more muscle strength, more lean body mass, a better condition and a lower percentage of fat.
But the improvement on these points was clearly lower than if you only did cardio or strength training. In other words, the combination of both is ideal if you want to become more athletic; but if you have a specific goal such as strength gain, fat loss or endurance, it is best to advance both types of training separately. This is possible on separate days or in a training period of a number of weeks in which you choose one of the two.
To stay healthy and get fitter, it doesn’t matter that much whether you do cardio or strength training first. You can even do both at the same time in a circuit training, where you constantly alternate strength and cardio. A study among inactive students showed that it did not matter for strength gain, fat loss and endurance that the training started.
This is in line with the experience that it is very important for beginners to let these choices depend on what you feel comfortable with, so that you can keep the training schedule full longer.
Advice: Strength or cardio first to get fit?
To stay healthy and get fitter, it doesn’t matter that much whether you do cardio or strength training first. Do what feels right to you
If your goal is to get better endurance, it’s important to start with cardio before doing strength training. For example, if you perform endurance training, you do not want your muscles to be tired by strength training before you start a long endurance run. You will find that strength training ensures that you can run less far, for example, because your muscles are tired. You also run a higher risk of injury; your coordination decreases because your nervous system, muscles and tendons are tired. Research shows that runners who first did strength training performed worse, due to the reduced strength of the quadriceps
Advice: Strength or cardio first for better endurance?
If you want to improve endurance, you first do a cardio workout and finish with strength. Even better is to train both on a separate day.
Muscle strength and muscle mass
If you want to develop muscle strength and muscle mass, it is important not to lose too much energy before you start a heavy workout. For the development of muscle mass and muscle strength it is important that the muscles receive an optimal training stimulus. If you first do a heavy cardio training, you will not be able to put so much strain on the muscles (less heavy weights can lift). As a result, you do not make optimum use of the growth capacity.
Research also shows that cardio training performed for strength training reduces muscle strength. This is due to the so-called “inteference effect”. There are a number of factors that can ensure that the combination of cardio and strength does not lead to an increase in strength. These include: a decrease in protein synthesis, a lesser development of muscle strength and a worse functioning of the control by the nerves as a result of exhaustion by the cardio.
To date, little research has been done into the effect of training sequence on testosterone and cortisol levels. A study shows that the testosterone level is highest when first a cardio effort is performed and then force. This only applies to moderate intensity cardio training with a short duration. The researchers indicate that the order of cardio strength is best for the testosterone level. But they have to add that it is even wiser to hold eight hours between the two training sessions. Future research with more participants and a long-term research design should provide more clarity about the correct order. It also appears that strength training after cardio training is worse for the amount of growth hormones released by the body. These two important factors therefore give an opposite picture. It is therefore impossible to draw a conclusion from this.
Testosterone is also not the determining factor for muscle growth, so you should not let the decision depend entirely on this.
Advice: First strength or cardio for more muscle strength & muscle mass?
If you want to develop strength or muscle mass, it is best to do strength training first and conclude with cardio. This gives you more focus and strength for a heavy training incentive. It is precisely this heavy load that is needed for muscle growth.
If you combine strength and cardio, I suspect that you first do strength and then cardio. That order is good for your strength training, because this way you prevent your cardio training from stealing the energy you need for iron work. A study by the University of Tsukuba showed that due to the strength-cardio sequence, more fat is present as an energy source for the body. The researchers do indicate that this effect is only valid if there is a short break between strength training and (sub-maximal) cardio training.
This effect may be influenced by the amount of free fatty acids in the body at the start of a strength workout.
Finally, it appears that the EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is higher if athletes first perform cardio and then do strength training. The EPOC is also called the after-burning. This is the energy you use after a workout. The researchers do indicate that purely strength training was best for a higher post-combustion. A higher afterburning ensures that you lose weight faster, because your body uses more energy. The aforementioned studies indicate two different advantages, because in my opinion the result and effort of strength training is more important than the possible increased post-burning, I would choose the order power cardio for the purpose of fat burning. Strength training is especially preferred because you want to keep your muscle mass intact as much as possible during weight loss (burning fat). A good training incentive for strength training is important for this.
Advice: First strength or cardio for fat burning?
If you want to lose fat, it is best to first apply strength and then cardio.
For runners and football players it is unwise to do strength training just before a match or training. The reason for this is that coordination becomes less after heavy training. You run a greater risk of injury because of this. There is also the chance that you are less explosive and just lose that sprint because your legs are still tired from the strength training. So make sure you stay at least eight hours between strength training and competition.
Advice: First strength or cardio for sport-specific performances?
Athletes who do team sports or agility sports can best conclude with strength training. It is even better to train on a separate day. Or eight hours between both training sessions.
How often cardio?
If you want to lose weight, you will have to do both more cardio and more strength training. For example, strength training twice a week and cardio twice a week. For growing muscle mass, it is wise not to do cardio too often. Cardio is at the expense of your recovery and ensures that your energy consumption increases, so that you have to eat more to gain muscle mass. I advise to who aim to develop muscle mass not to do cardio more often than twice a week. This keeps your condition up to date, you do not become stiff and the fat percentage remains under control. Athletes who focus on developing muscle strength are advised not to do cardio more often than once a week because this can be at the expense of their muscle strength.
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