Here’s an oldie but a goodie…
Should you do cardio BEFORE you lift?
If you’ve been following our blogs for a while then you probably know by now that I put traditional cardio down the list below strength training, metabolic training, AND nutrition when it comes to fat loss/body composition change.
However, cardio DOES play a role in weight loss and general health, and certainly shouldn’t be completely ignored.
The question is WHEN should you add cardio to your fitness routine?
In the “history” of personal training (hopefully not currently), trainers would often recommend you hit the treadmill or elliptical hard for 20-30 minutes FIRST before you start your strength training routine.
There are currently even some big chain fitness studios that set their classes up with up to 40 minutes of various styles of cardio before you even touch a weight.
The thought process before was that you need to warm up the body to help prep for the movement required in strength training (which I certainly do not disagree with).
However, there is a very important differentiation between “warming up” and “fatiguing” the body before a lifting session.
If you incorporate too much medium to high intensity cardio BEFORE you start training, you are zapping the body of the energy you need to lift efficiently. (Sure you’ll feel like your getting a killer workout with the sweat dripping off your face as you head to the weights, but you’re only limiting your ability to progress.)
No matter WHAT your goal is with strength training (weight loss, strength, tone, body composition change, etc.), if you want to achieve your goal with maximum efficiency you must be able to work at full capacity during your session.
Additionally, cardio before lifting can also set you up for potential injury, as it’s just simply easier to make mistakes when your body is over-tired.
IF you are just a die-hard who loves the super sweaty goodness that you get from killer cardio session, then I would incorporate your cardio workouts in one of two places:
1) At the END of your strength training session
2) On your “off days” from lifting
If you truly want to maximize the efficiency of your cardio workouts then I would go for the second option. Just as cardio will fatigue the body prior to lifting, strength training will certainly drain your system before cardio (especially if you’re pushing yourself the way you should). If your schedule will allow, I would dedicate specific time to EACH on opposing days (or at minimum 8 hours of recovery in between) so you can give them everything you have the way that you should!
BUT, what about your “warm-up” before lifting? Don’t you want to prep the body for movement before you lift to prevent injury?
Of course! If your body responds better to a brief “gentle” cardio warm up prior to lifting – go for it! 5 minutes on the treadmill, elliptical, or even rower should be plenty to get your blood flowing. (However, not NECESSARY.)
What we like to do before our training sessions we call “Active Movement Prep” (such as the exercises seen above). Basically this is a series of about 8-10 dynamic warm up exercises that target the body from head to toe. We like to dynamically stretch tight muscles, and “activate” weaker muscles at the same time to ensure maximum safety before lifting. Many times we like to incorporate exercises that provide “double-duty” of both prepping the body for movement, AND working to correct poor movement patterns and posture.
Once the body is properly warmed up you are ready to hit the weights! (Just save your killer cardio for later. )
Please let me know if you have any questions about this!!