Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Is it Okay to Run Before You Lift?

By: Andrew Jagim

I've been asked this question several times before: "Is it okay if I do cardio before lifting weights?" I understand that time is a luxury that not all people have, especially when it comes to getting your workouts in each week. So I understand when people want to maximize their time in the gym and try to get 2 workouts in at one time by doing their cardio and strength training all in one trip. 

However, by doing cardio first does it take away from your strength training?  Researchers recently sought out to answer this question.

What did they do?
Researchers had 11, resistance trained men complete a "control" resistance exercise session consisting of 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions for 5 exercises (high pull, bench press, deadlift, back squat and push press).  Then on 4 separate occasions the same subjects completed 1 of 4 aerobic exercise workouts followed by the same resistance exercise workout 10 minutes after. The 4 different aerobic conditions consisted of: 1) 60% of VO2 reserve for 45 min; 2) 75% of their VO2 Reserve for 20 min; 3) 90-100% of VO2 Reserve in 3-min intervals (x5) with a 1:1 work:rest ratio; and 4) 75% of VO2 Research uphill (6-9% grade) for 20 min.

What did they find?
All 4 aerobic protocols resulted in 9.1-18.6% fewer total repetitions completed in the resistance exercise workout compared to the control session.  In addition, average power and velocity were significantly reduced for the high pull, squat and bench press following the aerobic protocols.  Heart rate and ratings of perceived exertion were also higher following all 4 aerobic protocols.

The authors concluded that acute resistance exercise performance is compromised following aerobic exercises of different type, intensity, and duration with the largest performance decrements occurring post high-intensity interval workouts.

Take Home Message:
From this study we can draw a few conclusions. The first being that if we do any form of cardio prior to a strength training session, the overall quality of that strength session may be compromised. In addition, the biggest decrements appear to occur following a bout of high-intensity interval training; likely because it is the most physically demanding. Is HIIT a great form of training that offers several benefits? Yes, but it may not be the best prior to a bout of resistance training.  HOWEVER, in my opinion it depends on what your number one priority is.  Ideally, it would be best to do cardio and strength training on separate days but not everyone has that luxury. If your goal is to maximize the benefits from HIIT (i.e. increased aerobic capacity, increased lactate threshold, increased caloric expenditure etc.) then by all means do this first if you have no choice but to combine your cardio and strength days. But if your goal is to improve maximal strength, power and muscle hypertrophy, then you may be better off doing your strength training first so that you are not slightly fatigued going into your workout.  It's not the end of the world if you can't make this happen but if you are a high level competitor then you should probably pay more close attention to how you are structuring your workouts. If you are a CrossFitter, I have no idea what to tell you. Probably do all of the above? It's a tough sport.

Ratamess, N., Kang, J., Porfido, T. et al. Acute Resistance Exercise Performance is Negatively Impacted by Prior Aerobic Endurance Exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. PAP. (2016).

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