As a personal trainer there are a handful of questions that I get asked most frequently. Some questions are very straightforward and have simple answers. For example: should you eat protein after a workout? Yes. Others however are more ambiguous. There isn’t one RIGHT answer. Sometimes the best answer is: it depends. When people ask me is it better to do weights or cardio first, my go-to answer is it depends.
Just like in life, people in the gym have different goals. Some want to build muscle, others want to lose fat, and other are concerned about keeping up their overall health. With all these different goals come different answers to this question.
PRIMARY GOAL: BUILD MUSCLE AND/OR STRENGTH
If your primary goal is to increase your muscle mass or gain strength, you want to train with weights when you have the most strength and energy. You also want to have a full level of glycogen (the energy source your muscles use) for your workout. If you do cardio before weights, you will deplete your glycogen levels which will leave you burned out and tired before your weight training session. By weight training first, you use glycogen to fuel your muscles through the workout.
PRIMARY GOAL: WEIGHT LOSS
If your primary goal is to burn as many calories as you can in a single session for weight loss, it's best to do cardio first and lift weights next. There isn't any scientific reason behind this. Over my years of training I find that doing cardio, which most people hate, is often skipped if left to do last, particularly after an intense weight training session. By getting the cardio out of the way and then doing weights rather than doing weights and skipping cardio, you are bringing more calories overall and more calories burned leads to greater weight loss.
PRIMARY GOAL: IMPROVE OVERALL HEALTH
If your primary goal is to improve overall health, it really doesn't matter if you lift weights first or do endurance training first so long as you are doing both. In fact, you can do both at the same time by doing interval or circuit training routines. These routines are hard, fast, and will build muscle and endurance without spending hours in the gym.
No matter what your goal, one of the biggest factors in your success towards reaching them is consistency. Don’t allow yourself excuses as to why you can’t accomplish something. If you are new to the gym, or aren’t sure how to get the best results, hiring a personal trainer from Lifetime Fitness Solutions can be a great way to get yourself to reach your goals. Call or email us today!
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