Cardio or Weights First?


When’s the best time to do get your cardio in: before or after your strength training session? This debate has been brewing for some time, and there has never been a clear consensus. But Dr. William Kraemer revisited the issue and gave some interesting new insight into the cardio vs. weights debate.

“What’s been coming out in the literature now is that the imprint that’s left by the last exercise form that you choose–whether it be strength training, endurance running or intervals–is what the body is going to be affected the most by,” Kraemer explained while giving his research tip on the Performance Nutrition Show. “If you’re going to exercise all at one time, you need to properly pair things up.”

According to Kraemer, there is now evidence that suggests that you can nullify your anabolic processes by following it with a catabolic or aerobic type of stimulus. When you do a strength training routine, for example, you signal a process in which information from genes is used to make proteins to begin building muscle that was recruited. But switching from strength training to a high intensity interval session creates a catabolic effect that opposes the signals in the muscle fibers that were stimulated anabolically.

“If you’re interested in optimizing the anabolism of the tissue … you want to do the strength training session second and it’s probably good to pair it with a low level cardio before. And if you have to do a high level cardio, do a light weight training session first followed by your high intensity cardio,” Kraemer suggests.

If your goal is to gain lean muscle mass, do you still need to do cardio at all? Yes, but Kraemer recommends using an amino acid supplement and carbohydrates to stimulate anabolic properties, since protein can stave off loss of lean muscle tissue. “If you do a lot of high intensity training, your type-I fibers don’t get smaller, but they don’t get any bigger either,” Kraemer warns.