Which comes first, the kickin’ or the legs?
Is it better to do cardio first or weights during a mixed session? What is the ideal order? Well, it depends on varying factors, so let’s look at what you’re trying to achieve first. Whichever discipline we do first is where we will have the greater intensity, so if you want to get more out of your cardio session, then do that first, otherwise you can fatigue very quickly doing weights leaving you spent for the fat burning part.
Fat Loss – studies have shown that doing resistance exercise first will deplete blood glucose and muscle glycogen, meaning you will tap into your fat stores a lot faster when your cardio phase begins. Having said that, if the cardio work is where the majority of the fat is going to be burned, then maybe you want to be at your highest energy levels for that. The good news is that if you’re doing both in your training session, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to burn fat either way. At the time during the cardio work, or from the post burn effect from the weights. Win/win!
Strength and/or Muscle Growth – no debating this one. If you want more pop in your lifts, then doing your weights after a functional warm up or mobility circuit is where the money is. Cardio sessions for strength are usually of a short, intense nature, and for muscle growth, a long, slow duration, so either way you can do this after your weights without sabotaging your results.
Fitness – here is one for the cardio team. If fitness is your goal, then you want to be at your freshest for this part of the routine. Resistance work can then take on a more stability and strength/stamina angle to support your chosen discipline.
Speed – primarily a fast twitch pursuit, a power weight session can be the perfect preparation for short, max efforts of speed. Legs feel pretty light on a running track compared to 100kg squat, and even if they are a bit wobbly, “dead leg sprints” can be a great way to teach your body to work when exhausted. Stretching is the key between sessions as this type of ballistic work can be extremely taxing on your muscles.
Personal Preference – the simple fact of the matter is that whichever of cardio and weights you enjoy dong the most is the one you’re probably going to start with. I know muscled up guys who swear by doing their cardio first, likewise some runners would rather do their weights first, as they feel they have to work harder on their run.
From our point of view, we’re just happy you are doing both during a session. It means you’ve had either a good intensity, or decent duration session however it’s been put together, and will create a fit and strong body however you chop and dice it.