Cardio before or after?

Cardio before or after?

Every time I step into a training facility I see people doing a mix of things. Some people only using weights, some
only using cardio equipment, and some doing a bit of both. Focusing on a single component of fitness will no doubt
maximize your potential improvements in that specific area; however, the human body is designed to adapt to the stimulus it interacts with.

When you train multiple aspects of fitness in the same session you are exposed to many different stimuli that are sending an array of mixed signals within your body. Some people have termed this the interference phenomenon and it explains why a marathoner cannot also be a power-lifter at the same time.

Now before we get into how to deal with these signals, training multiple aspects of fitness in the same session or phase is known as concurrent training which can be found in certain athletic populations training regimes. A simple example of this style of training can include a focus of strength in the form of weights and an endurance component in the form of long distance cardio all completed in the same session. While this form of training is far from ideal for certain types of athletes (marathoners and power-lifters), this style of exercise is very underappreciated for its ability to translate into day-to-day life of the general population.

More specifically, this training method translates into various activities of daily living from bathing to carrying groceries over distances and going upstairs. So if you are a person who is focusing on general health and wellness concurrent training may be the best training style for you, but how do you maximize your potential improvements with a mixed array of signals pulling your body in different directions?

One study investigated the effect of training order on endocrine function as it relates to performance. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups, strength training (ST), strength followed by endurance training, endurance followed by strength training, or no training. Results showed that individuals who performed only strength and endurance prior to strength had higher levels of blood lactate, cortisol and a decrease in strength performance when compared to the strength prior to endurance group 1 .

What is the significance of this? Well lactate (lactic acid) is a byproduct of metabolism and when in relatively high concentrations it indirectly impairs muscle contraction resulting in a loss of strength and decreasing the threshold of fatigue. Next, Cortisol is a stress hormone and is known to breaks things down (catabolic effect), more specifically is has beens shown to impair uptake of amino acids and protein synthesis which is a build up phenomenon (anabolic effect). Therefore, in short, you want to complete any form of “cardio” AFTER weight training to minimize the impact of mixed signals within your body that can diminish your improvements.

What’s the take home?
● Concurrent training is a training method where multiple aspects of fitness are trained in the same session
(strength, power, endurance, speed)
● Concurrent training translates very well into activities of day-to-day life
● Always complete your Strength Training BEFORE your Cardio to minimize the impact of mixed signals

[1] Jones, T. W., Howatson, G., Russell, M., & French, D. N. (2017). Effects of strength and endurance exercise order on endocrine responses to concurrent training. European journal of sport science , 17 (3), 326-334. Abstract

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Anthony Barsby
Anthony Barsby

As DeerFields’ Lifestyle Coach, Anthony uses the five pillars of lifestyle to provide clients with comprehensive and customized lifestyle coaching through face-to-face consultations and online mentoring. A Certified Exercise Physiologist, Anthony is proficient at fitness assessments and implementing exercise prescriptions catered to individual’s unique needs and capabilities.