When it comes to working out, you’re either going to do an anaerobic session, shorter and intense, which focuses on building strength and muscle, or an aerobic session, usually with a longer duration and which increases your cardiovascular endurance.
Ideally you should do both.
The question is, which one comes first, strength training or endurance training?
The answer depends on the reason why you’re working out in the first place. Is it to build muscle mass? To get lean? To improve your cardio fitness? To lose weight? There are several options!
Once you know the answer, it will be easier to adopt one of our strategies. Here we will give you some options suitable for different goals.
Get to know everything and clarify your doubts!
The Muscle Builder
If you’re focused on gaining body mass, then you should definitely give priority to strength training.
To start doing it, you should do a warm-up, a few minutes in the treadmill, for example, and stretching, just to get your body ready for the weight lifting workout. This way, you will minimize the likelihood of injuries.
Most beginning bodybuilders are in this category: before you can tone and define muscles, you’ve got to build them. So be patient!
If you’re trying to build muscles, you want 100% of your mental and physical energy to be focused on weight training.
When you exercise, your body uses the energy that’s stored in your muscles (in the form of glycogen).
If you went for a run previously, you’d be dissipating your training intensity, because you’ll have to distribute your energy and strength for two types of training instead of focusing on just one option, leading to premature fatigue and loss of effectiveness.
In fact, when you’re working out to gain muscle mass, you need to limit your endurance training.
Gaining muscle mass requires extra calories to have energy, which you don’t want to burn with multi mile endurance runs.
Cut back to a couple of sessions on the treadmill per week, mostly as a warm-up, before starting your mass building workout.
The Lean Machine
If your goal is to define muscles and to lose body fat, to start revealing your anatomy of a hard body, you should start doing endurance training – but you still want to do it after your strength training.
Working with weights demands all of your energy and focus, even if you won’t be going quite as heavy as before! And this type of training is essential to tone your body!
To get lean, you need to burn more calories than you eat, it’s that simple! In addition to changing a few things in your diet, it’s also a good option to do this through cardio endurance workouts.
But if possible, do your endurance training at a different time of the day than your strength training.
Tip: Do your weights workout in the morning and your endurance training in the early evening.
The Cardio King (or Queen)
If you’re mainly interested in improving your cardiovascular endurance and overall fitness, you should do your endurance training before your weights training.
To increase your endurance, the best option is doing cardio exercises, like running long distances.
If you were to run after you’ve exhausted your lower body muscles in an intense training session, you would very likely compromise both your running form and economy. And that’s a recipe for injuries and will compromise your performance!
The Fat Melter
If you’re focused on burning as many calories as you can, to lower your weight, your real concern should be to create a negative daily calorie balance.
You need to be prepared to burn more calories than you eat daily, which will allow you to lose body fat.
This is more important than worrying about the order of your strength and cardio training.
Key here is: Create a daily dent into your calorie balance by doing some exercise each day.
Therefore, you should alternate weight training days and cardio training days.
On your weight training day:
Focus on circuit training with relatively light weight, high rep movements, alternated with plyometric exercises (better known as jump training). This type of exercises consists of stretching movements immediately followed by contracting movements.
On your cardio day:
The most common are running and cycling, but you can perform some variations of high intensity interval training (HIIT) to burn the maximum number of calories both during and after your training sessions.
Get to know more about this type of training in our blog post.
Smart athletes (like you) train with a specific goal, then allow their body time to recover, before focusing on the next goal.
Learn more about recovery in our article about the importance of post-workout recovery.
That discards the idea of jumping directly from strength to endurance training, or vice versa. If you do this, your body will always suffer during the second activity.
Make sure to give your body at least a few hours time to rest and recover, before doing an endurance session after strength training, or vice versa.
As we’ve outlined above, and as you could see in the goals that we listed, the actual order of the workouts during your day needs to be determined by your specific training goals!
So, now that you know when to do it, what are you waiting for? You can stop worrying about the order . . . and just do it!