Cardio seems to be the type of exercise that we all know is good for us and will improve our overall health, yet seems to be a real challenge for a lot of people. While there are some who love to get their cardio in, for many others it seems to be a chore.
Balancing a resistance training plan while trying to add in cardio can be a challenge. Ideally, separating each session would be best to give your body time to recover. Waking up the first thing in the morning and getting in a quick 15-30 min cardio session can get your body pumped and ready to start the day. Fasted Cardio has shown some results in helping lose body fat. So if that’s your goal, cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach can be the way to go. You can still get in a weightlifting session later in the day after your body has recovered.
However, not everyone can separate their workouts like that. People are busy and may only have an hour to workout a day. So, if you have a choice of doing your cardio directly before or after resistance training, which is best?
Before a workout can be a nice way to warm up your body and get your heart rate up. Doing light cardio before a workout is not going to kill you, however overdoing it can be detrimental if you are trying to gain strength with your weight training. An intense 20-minute cardio session before weight training may sap your muscle stamina. Leaving you struggling to lift the same amount of weight that you usually do. You will still maintain good overall health and strength this way, however if gaining strength and muscle mass is your goal you may need to try something different. If you do choose to do it beforehand, try to take down the intensity a notch and use it more as a warmup more so than a workout.
Doing resistance training first is often recommended because your body is fresh and filled with glycogen stores which will be your fuel for weight lifting. Then you can rely on fat to fuel you through your cardio. You can get your 40-45 minutes of weight lifting in leaving yourself with 15-20 minutes of cardio with your energy levels still relatively strong.
Another option may be to superset your weight lifting and cardio throughout your workout. So instead of having a 2-minute rest in between sets you can throw in a minute of cardio (i.e. Jumping jacks, jump squats or running in place, etc.) to get your cardio in and keep your heart rate up between sets.
If you have the time to do two-a-days or can carve out extra hours in your week to make room for separate strength workouts and cardio sessions, then you have no problems!
However, if you only have an hour and you are trying to do cardio and weights in that same hour, then your best bet is to do your lifts first and your cardio training after. Just keep in mind, this may not work best for everyone, so take this advice and use it to start a routine. Then mold that routine into something that works for you specifically.