One of the questions I get asked most often is if you should do cardio before or after lifting weights. I know the reason I get this so often is because people want to make the most of their gym time. I get it. We don't have all day to spend at the gym. So let's see if I can provide some answers.
I think the first thing I should discuss pertains to those beginning an exercise routine. If you're fresh to the gym, or making your triumphant return after a few years off, listen up. Don't stress it. Do your cardio. Lift your weights. Do whichever you'd like first, but don't stress the order.
The main thing somebody in this category needs to worry about is simply developing the habit of working out. Don't complicate things, just do them. Once you've cemented the habit and you actually enjoy going to the gym, then we can start to dive deeper.
After you've been going to the gym for at least a year or two, we can focus more on exercise timing. The general rule is to perform whichever you want to get better at first. The idea being that you'll get better at what you do when you have more energy.
So if you'd like to be running 5K or 10Ks, or half and full marathons, focus more on your cardio. If you'd like to build muscle, burn fat and shape your body, focus on weights first. Personally, I find most clients and gym goers fit into the latter category.
I tend to recommend that people perform weights first, when you have the majority of your energy, so you can focus on lifting heavier and keeping better form. Then, after a proper weight session, finishing off with a good sweat session of whichever form of cardio they prefer.
The old school of thought is that you'll use your body's stored glycogen during the weights and will then more easily tap into stored fat during the cardio. This has been followed for years because it's typically believed that we need to burn through our stored energy levels (again, glycogen) before our body will begin to burn its fat stores.
Recent studies are showing this may not be true. It seems like we may be able to dive a little deeper into the type of training you'd like to do, provide a proper program structure and reach the goals we're aiming for more efficiently. I'll use next week's article to explain further for those that are curious.
For now, focus on keeping it simple. Develop your habit. Learn to look forward to your gym time. If you want to be a cardio king or queen, do it first. If you want to shape your body and build a physique that makes people turn their heads, focus on the weights and keeping the intensity high.
I'll be back next week to go into more detail and answer any possible further questions. Until then, get your sweat on, make the gym time YOUR time and feel good knowing that you're working on improving yourself!
Andy Frisch, NASM CPT, CES, PES, WFS, IFT, NESTA FNC, is a successful personal trainer and nutrition coach who enjoys working with clients of all shapes, sizes and ages. He currently train clients at Sports Village Fitness in Lebanon, works with clients online at www.FreshEvolutionFitness.com and has a budding YouTube channel.