You Might Want To Do Cardio Before Strength (Or Not)

Today in research not achieving very much: The American Council on Exercise sponsored a study to see what order of workouts is most effective when you’re doing both cardio and strength training in one go. I’m going to skip to the very very conclusion of their findings and then fill you in on the caveats: Basically, they found out that sometimes it’s better to do cardio first and sometimes it’s better to do resistance training first, and also all bodies and workout needs are different, and also do what you need to do for yourself, which is really, really vague.

OK, now the caveats: If you’re looking to do moderate-intensity exercise, it’s best to do cardio first, which goes against the common knowledge in the fitness community that you should do strength first so that you’re not fatigued by the time you hit the weights. However, in the fitness community, I get the impression that most people aren’t looking to do moderate-intensity exercise — I’ve seen short, very intense workouts advocated over and over, thus the fondness for HIIT over endurance training, as well as for barbell training (3 sets of 5 reps per exercise = 30-ish minutes at the gym, unless the gym is your social hub and you happen to like just hovering around the squat racks doin’ nothing). The study doesn’t encourage high-intensity exercise because of the risk of injury.

The study shows that if you do resistance training first, your heart rate will be an average of 12 beats per minute faster while you’re doing cardio than if you do cardio first. I thought that was the point of cardio? I’m confused. Anyway, I’m super paranoid about maintaining proper form while I’m lifting heavy things, so I’m going to keep doing strength first, personally.

So the takeaway: If you’re just getting into exercising as a beginner, try doing cardio first; you may end up feeling better at the end of your workouts for it. Otherwise, I guess, um, as you were. [Refinery 29]