Many people combine a weight training routine with cardiovascular work on a training day. However, it is very common, especially in the newly initiated, to ask: “The cardio, before or after the weights?”.
The answer to this question is not a minor detail. In this case, the order of the factors does alter the product. But before going into questions of physiology, we will make clear the answer: in the vast majority of cases, it is better to do cardiovascular work (aerobic) after the weights. We recommend that you read the whole article to understand why and know your own body better.
An adequate training plan can not leave to the choice of each person if first doing cardio or overload work (weights). The sequence must be the one that offers the most benefits to our body and that fulfills the objectives that we propose.
Usually, people go to a gym or do an aerobic work plan because they seek to increase their muscles, burn fat or both. And both for one and for another goal, starting with the weights and finishing with cardio is usually the best.
The physiological explanation of this order
To understand this order it is necessary to know what “fuel” our body uses for these types of exercise. That is, you have to know the energy sources that the body uses to exercise.
Work with weights is mainly anaerobic. Therefore, it uses the glycogen found in muscles as the main energy source.
On the other hand, cardiovascular activity, aerobic, uses both glycogen and fats.
Now, what happens when the glycogen reserves are low in each case? If we work with weights without adequate glycogen levels, we will not be able to perform to the maximum.
This not only increases the risk of injury or may cause us to interrupt the fatigue routine. It also has another marked disadvantage: when the body needs glycogen for anaerobic work and does not have it, it resorts to the muscle’s own proteins.
The latter is what is known as catabolism, or muscle loss. It is exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve when visiting a weight room, anabolism (muscle development).
Better to burn fat
But, what fuel will do cardiovascular work if we have already spent glycogen in the weight room? As we said, anaerobic work, if performed at a low to moderate intensity ( HIIT with weights), can also use fats as fuel.
Even, here there will be an advantage: the body will use more fats than usual to have low glycogen levels.
But this is not all. There is another factor that will help the process of lipolysis, as it is known to the process in which our body burns fats. It is a hormonal issue.
During a weight session, the segregation of both testosterone and somatotropin (“growth hormone”) increases. Both favor lipolysis just after reaching their peaks. Therefore, take advantage of this downward curve of the levels of these hormones is synonymous with optimizing fat burning.
The exception: when it is better to do cardio at the beginning
In general, every indication has its exception. And this applies to the order of cardio or weights. In this case, in people with a high degree of overweight, it may be beneficial to do the aerobic work at the beginning.
These are people with a low level of shape and a marked excess of fat. In these cases reducing adipose tissue is an emergency (and for the immediate, prioritizing cardio is more beneficial). In this case, you can opt for an aerobic job at the beginning to burn more calories and then supplement with a muscle-strengthening job.
Here we must be careful that the latter is adapted to the level of training of the person since after a session of 30-40 minutes of cardio, your fatigue can affect the correct execution of the exercises.
And the day he touches his legs?
The cardio after the weights is very convenient when work in the gym involves the upper body. On the contrary, the day you perform strong leg work in the gym it is advisable not to do any subsequent cardiovascular work. This is to not overload our muscles, which would generate fatigue and the risk of muscle loss.
If you do, this should be just to loosen your legs for a few minutes and at a really smooth pace.
The best cardio at low intensity
That said, it is necessary to make some clarifications so as not to throw away this planning. Doing cardio after a session of weights does not mean you can make a fund of about 15 kilometers. Nor that you go out to the track in search of your best times.
To burn fat after doing weights and at the same time take care of our musculature, then we must work in moderation.
A cardiovascular training after a session of weights should be done at an intensity of between 55 and 65% of our maximum heart rate. This implies that it will not be necessary to shake too much. You should jog, pedal or work on the elliptical at a comfortable pace, allowing you to speak without major difficulties.
If you do not do this, your body will not be able to use fats as fuel and, in the absence of glycogen, will resort to using your own muscle as an energy source.
In terms of time, about 20 to 30 minutes will be enough to help burn fat.
Remember that you are not trying to improve your aerobic capacity. Rather you are looking to take advantage of the state of your body. This is empty of glycogen and hormonally at the optimal time to optimize fat loss.
Why aerobic exercise is not useful for heating
There are those who start their routine on the bicycle or the tape in order to perform a warm-up for the work of bodybuilding. However, this is not very effective.
Besides that you will use the muscle glycogen that you will need later to lift weights, you will not prepare your muscles in an ideal way either.
Why? Because our muscles have different types of fibers. And those used for cardiovascular work (the so-called “red”) are not the same as those used to make weights (the “white”).
So, a bit of gentle movement, of five or a maximum ten minutes, is sufficient as a warm-up. This will be enough to raise the body temperature a little.
In this line to start your work of bodybuilding in an optimal way, the idea is to start with a job of abdominal and lumbar. These are fundamental for the proper execution of the most important overload exercises.
If you take the necessary precautions in when volume and intensity, doing cardio after the weights have two advantages. One is to increase the musculature and the other to optimize the loss of fats. On the other hand, doing it the other way around can have the opposite effect. That is the risk of losing muscles without getting rid of so much adipose tissue.