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Cardio Before Weights

A common misconception is that endurance training after a high-intensity weight lifting session would be detrimental to one's progress when strength training. I have heard many arguements in favor of this, but the most popular seems to be as follows:Doing heavy cardio (30-45 minutes) after lifting weights will rob your recently trained muscles of centralized blood flow during the most crucial protein absorption time (1-2 hours post-workout). To further elaborate, the belief is that a cardiovascular workout would re-distribute blood flow throughout the body as opposed to leaving it localized to the muscle group that you have been training for the last hour. However, I have found that this does not play as large of a role in your progress as one might think. Let me be sure to be clear on what it is I believe: Endurance training after weight training will be much more beneficial for a person in terms of performance, injury prevention, as well as muscle gains.

What doing cardio before your weights actually will rob you of is your energy stores. It is not a hard concept to grasp that if your energy is at one level and you expend energy through activity, those levels will be lower. Not only will your ATP and glucose levels be down, but your glycogen also, which serves as your body's primary energy source for muscle contraction. Attempting to strength train while glycogen is depleted will result in a workout that is inefficient and much less effective. You will "hit the wall" much sooner than if energy stores were up, making it harder to get those last few key repetitions, in turn resulting in smaller muscle gains.

The element of injury is always a risk that is involved when working out, especially in the weight room. This risk can be elevated if a person's mental and physical state are not where they need to be. While weight training, one must devote full mental and physical focus to the task at hand. Imagine that you are going to do a leg workout, beginning with squats, and that you have just run on a treadmill for 40 minutes. Now do you think your ready to put up between 2 - 300 pounds when your quads feel like jelly? I would say probably not. Muscle fatigue can be a huge player in getting injured at the gym, even when you're lifting a muscle group other than legs after the cardio.

Some actually dispute that doing any type of aerobic training will hurt muscle gains on the basis that it will consume too many calories and cause your body to start breaking down protein cells. Most seasoned trainers, however, will argue the exact opposite in that aerobic training can actually promote muscle growth by facilitating the transport of oxygen throughout your bloodstream. In cardiovascular training, we are developing our circulatory pathways for oxygen and nutrient delivery. The constant flow of oxygen will widen the pathways assisting in suppling nutrients (and oxygen of course) to muscle tissue as well as filtering out waste. Sure you burn extra calories running, biking, swimming, etc. and if you are not eating enough your body will essentially go into a mode of starvation, but you cannot blame that on endurance training.

Your muscle gains depend far more upon proper nutrition rather than whether you are running after your weights or not. Are your eating enough protein? Carbohydrates? Is your calorie-in/calorie-out well balanced for your goal? If they have the time in their schedule, some people can steer clear of this question all together by simple doing cardio on alternate days from weights in their cycle. However it is difficult for some people to get to the gym just for a cardio workout and in the interest of not neglecting it, they are more comfortable adding it to their weight sessions. So if you fall into this category and you are endurance training prior to lifting weights, perhaps try moving it to after and see how you fare and as always, share your results with us!

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