Reader Question: Is it better to do cardio exercises before I do strength training with weights or after? I have heard it both ways and am confused on what the optimal method is when I’m at the gym. – From Shannon in Cleveland, OH
Shannon, this is a very popular question and opinions vary, but if you want the optimal method for your cardiovascular system, based on scientific research, then you should do cardio after your strength exercises. A short session of cardio after a strength workout prevents the arteries from becoming stiffer, found researchers from Osaka University in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Cardio sessions done before weight training don’t protect the arteries.
Strength training makes the arteries stiffer, according to some studies.
The Japanese did an experiment on 11 men and 22 women, all of whom were healthy but not sports fanatics, average age 18.
Of the 33 test subjects, 22 of them did strength training for 8 weeks. Twice a week they trained their most important muscle groups doing the following basic exercises: chest press, curls, seated rows, shoulder press, leg curls, leg press and sit ups.
11 of the subjects ran for 20 minutes on a treadmill at 60 percent of their maximal heart rate – before they started the strength training. The other 11 did their running after they’d finished the strength training.
The last 11 did nothing at all. This was the control group.
Just before the training program started, just after it finished, and once again after 4 weeks of detraining, the researchers measured the stiffness and the elasticity of the subjects’ arteries.
The results showed that a short cardio session after the strength workout cancels out the negative effect of the strength workout. The arteries of the test subjects even appeared to be a bit healthier as a result of doing cardio after the strength workout.
Now many strength athletes can’t stand doing cardio. But a 20-minute session, at an intensity where you can still chat with your neighbor, is not much to ask. Is it?