Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Should you do Cardio before or after your weight training session?

I seem to be asked this question quite often. Should i do cardio before or after my weight training? There seems to be a lot of debate on the internet as well as to which order is better. So let me present some facts and also my own personal preference. This question may seem simple enough, but actually it can get pretty complicated.

Whenever i get asked this question, my answer is always, well it depends on:-
  1. what your fitness goals are. Your training and exercise program should be shaped around your desired fitness goal. Meaning you need to first decide what you want to achieve before planning your workout routine. Not the other way around. Its like asking "Are bicep curls good exercise?" Not if you don't want your biceps to grow.
  2. How intense your cardio session is going to be. Is it just going to be a 5 minute jog or a 45 minute jog. You need to take this into consideration as well when making your decision.
Once your know the answers to the above 2, the choice is quite simple.

So when would you do Cardio BEFORE weights?
  • If you are a marathon runner and your goal is to increase your endurance, then YES, give your cardio session the attention it needs. If your goal is endurance, there is a high chance that you are just doing weights to shape up and firm up your muscles. So in this case, you would want to do your cardio first.
  • I know of some people who like to warm up by jogging on the treadmill for about 5 minutes, before hitting the weights. This is fine, though it would not be my preferred method of warming up. But to each his own. But please don't jog for 30 minutes and say it is a warm up.
Unless your fitness goals is one of the above, it will be better to do your cardio AFTER your weight training. Here's why
  • Lifting weights requires you to maintain proper form through out the ROM. If you have already taxed your body physically with a 45 minute run, it becomes that much more difficult to maintain proper form, since your body is already exhausted. This also means higher risk of injury. Imagine trying to squat 100kgs after a 40 minute run.
  • If you are lifting weights, i am assuming you are lifting heavy. To lift heavy, you are going to need all the energy you have. Especially for pushing out those last 2 or 3 reps when you feel like you just can't do anymore. After a 45 minute run, you will not be able to lift as heavy or push yourself as much as you would. In other words, your lift becomes a secondary workout, because your main focus was cardio
  • Personally, i find it easier to do weights and then run compared to the other way around. Whether its a psychological preference or an actual physical conditioning, i am not sure. But i just find it easier to do it this way
But what if i want to just lose weight and firm up my muscles here and there, then what? If this is your goal, i would still recommend doing weights first and then doing your cardio. Many people don't see it and still disagree, but doing weight training is CARDIO. A good weight lifting session will cause you to burn lots of calories. Many people out there still believe that the only way to burn calories is to do cardio like running, cycling etc. Weight training is an EXCELLENT method to burn calories as well, so yes, it does work.

Unless your weight training routine consists of you swinging some light dumbbells around like a magic wand, for all other purposes, it is still recommended that you do your weight training FIRST and then followed by your cardio. For me personally, i don't like doing too many things at one go. I like to keep my workouts to an hour or just slightly less. Hence this is why i have muscle gain days and weight loss days. On muscle gain days, i focus on just building muscle and on my weight loss days... well i focus on burning fat. Meaning i don't mix cardio and weight training on the same day, let alone one after the other. However, there are some times, when i do go for a jog on my muscle gain days, but it is done much much later in the evening. Spreading out your workout like this would be the best technique, rather than one followed by the other. But if you lack time and want to spend 30 minutes on weights and 30 minutes on the treadmill, go with the weights first.

What is your take on this big question? Or which one do you prefer? As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.


gerbera said...

My goal is to lose weight n tone up

Mik said...

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Rajan said...

Gerbera: You will benefit a lot by doing weights first. Try it and see.

Mik: Thank you for your compliments. Please do share with everyone. I like your concept of Non-Diet. cool stuff dude.

BadBoyz said...

Hi, currently im trying to build up muscle especially for arms and abs. Can i ask something first? Do replacement meals or protein shakes help to build muscle by their own ( i meant even without exercise )? And also are both replacement meals and protein shakes essential for all body builders?

Rajan said...

Badboyz: Great questions. Let me answer them one at a time.

NO... protein shakes and meal replacements alone cannot help you build muscle. To build muscle, you have to provide it with enough resistance. Unless you work as a construction worker carrying heavy loads everyday, you will not be able to build muscle without proper exercise.

Are protein shakes necessary? No, but it helps to take the guess work out of nutrition. For me, its a fast effective way to provide your body with high quality protein, minus the fat and unnecessary calories. If you are disciplined enough to eat properly, then you don't need protein shakes. for me, its just convenient and fast.

Hope this answers your questions.

palie bujang said...

hi there. i just wanna ask a very simple n maybe kinda stupid. i dont care, to gain knowledge we have to do everything as long it is right to do so. i just wanna ask u, wut is, in your opinion, the best warm up before doing work out exercise?

BadBoyz said...

thanks for info, Rajan. Now i understood.

Rajan said...

Palie bujang: It really depends on what your exercise is going to be. I personally find that if you are going to do squats, a few sets of lighter squats really helps to get everything ready. going for a run, go for a walk first to warm up. Basically i like doing a lighter version of my exercise as warm up.... rather than a standard kind of warm up for all exercises.

daniel yusof said...

forst of all, my goal is to lose weight..i started hitting the gym 2 months ago and i lost approximatively about 5 kilos already..79kg to 74kgs.. not much different n i am little bit dissapointed (bcoz the first week i lost 2kgs n i thought the loss will continue to be the same every week) there are some weeks i lose and there are some weeks i did not lose at all(it is not consistent)

and my routines are

first part, i enter the gym, i do cardio...i jog about 25 minutes and cycling for 20mins

later 30 more minutes i focused on machines...like stomatch, thigh/leg push, hand pull etc and then i play with 5kgs dumbell (for arms)

then i cardio again for 10 minutes b4 i go back...

any comments or suggestions?

Rajan said...

Daniel Yusof: Good questions. Here are some of my thoughts.

Firstly i think your work out is too long. Best to keep the entire workout to an hour or so. Beyond that, you are not as productive anymore. so you get a whole lot more tired, but not necessarily getting more results.

Also to give you better advice, it will help to know how often you are doing this current routine.

Losing rapid amount of weight in the beginning and then watching it slow down is natural. Your body starts adapting and that's why the results become slower. I would suggest that you mix it up. Personally i find circuit training with some heavy weights the best way to burn fat away.

Also, need to look at your diet. For best weight loss results its best to workout and watch your diet at the same time.

One last note, your workout needs to get progressively more difficult. Meaning if you started jogging at 5km per hour on the treadmill for 20minutes and 4 weeks later it is still at the same intensity for 20 minutes, then that's not going to work. You need to progressively make it more difficult and keep pushing yourself... this is another way to prevent your body from adapting which results is less results.

Hope this info helps.