One of the most common questions that I am asked by our gym members is, “what should I do first? Cardio or strength?” Unfortunately like most things, there is not a simple answer.
In general, I recommend to my clients to start with a warm up. This is some kind of a dynamic movement that increases your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and blood flow. Following the warm up, I recommend doing strength training. For our reasons at the wellness center this is beneficial in two ways. First, this allows the client to strength train while they are still “fresh.” Cardio exercise hasn’t fatigued the body yet which can lead to a reduction in injury, better form and an increase in efficacy. Secondly, studies show that performing resistance training before cardio training results in a larger elevation in heart rate during cardio. This is important because it speaks to the intensity of exercise. A higher heart rate means a greater intensity. More intensity during training leads to a high calorie and fat burn. Studies have also shown that higher intensity cardio is more beneficial for the aging population.
Of course there are exceptions. For instance, an athlete in training may choose not to follow these guidelines and this would all depend on the athlete’s goals. Another exception could be if you have a heart rate restriction. Some individuals are not allowed to increase their heart rate over a certain number, as recommended by their physician.
So, the short of it is that it all depends on what you are trying to achieve. Check out the chart below from the ACE Fitness website. This is a great guideline if you are unsure about which you should do first. Good luck and keep moving!