Why the hell are you 3 Doing cardio before your weight training?
I realise that for those hardcore lifters amongst you this is not a question you need worry yourself with; but most that use gyms perform an all in one programme.
Although I think that the majority of trainees just copy each other without giving much thought to something as basic as a goal, but I’m not going to go into that during this post. For the sake of limiting waffle I will concede that to achieve their goals some people need will to perform weights and cardio in the same session, but the vast majority are getting their workout structure the wrong way round.
The reason you should do your weights first is that your muscles respond to the amount force that you produce when you’re lifting. As you’ll remember from physics class, Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion in its simplest form is F=MA, which is Force = Mass (the weight lifted) multiplied by Acceleration (the speed at which you lift). Therefore if you’re worn out from a 30 minute run you won’t be able to lift the weight that perhaps you could have if you’d been fresh; therefore the level of Force is reduced as are your results.
But, you cry, if I lift first I won’t be able to run as fast, won’t that affect my results? As far as most goals are concerned the answer is no, not really. When you run (or perform any form of cardiovascular exercise) the results you get are determined by heart rate in the main, even if your goal is fat loss the higher your heart rate the more calories you burn.
If you usually run at 12kph for 30 minutes, but because you have just lifted you can now only run at 10kph it doesn’t mean that your heart rate will be less than normal, it only means that you’ve lost efficiency, your heart rate would be just as high, and even though the calorie burn on the machine might say different, the real calorie burn would be the same too.
In short cardio has a detrimental effect on lifting but the reverse isn’t true for most goals.
These guys didn’t warm up by running a couple of miles!
As you’re reading this you’re probably nodding your head thinking that this is all pretty obvious, you might be wondering where this nonsense of cardio before weights came from?
It comes to the clients from the trainers, and to the trainers (in the UK, and probably USA too) from the certification bodies. The main aim of these bodies is to ensure that one of their trainers hurts as few clients as possible; and they think that the best way of achieving this is to overstate the importance of a cardiovascular warm up. They figure that if someone has a good sweat up then they’re less likely to pull a muscle. This could be true when people perform the next to useless resistance machine type workout that most trainers have their clients do. But for effective weight lifting programmes, such as those found on this site, and in my eBook “Becoming Mighty”, excessive cardiovascular warm ups, or cardio training done before lifting is actually dangerous. It can mess up your coordination as well as weaken you, and obviously lower your work capacity.
To emphasis this point I remember one certification body in the mid-90s used to tell their students to warm up clients with a first pulse raiser for 10-15 minutes, then they had to stretch thoroughly, this was then followed by a second pulse raiser as clients had cooled down after 10-15 minutes of static stretching, which in itself is a questionable practice. The second pulse raiser was only for 5-10 minutes, thank goodness for that! By this time we’re 30+ minutes into the session and the client has done nothing to address their goal.
This could be the main reason but let’s not forget the great job done by Dr Kenneth Cooper, and others since the 60s, who got the public to believe that their number one priority as regards exercise should be cardiovascular conditioning. I believe that it’s an important component of overall health but, as the great Dan John said, “the goal is to keep the goal, the goal!” If you want to change the shape of your body, whether you call this bodybuilding, or fat loss, then your main priority is lifting weights, and this should be performed first in your session.