By now you know if you want to build a lean, fit body, you can’t stick to the treadmill or elliptical alone. It takes some heavy lifting to get that strong and chiseled physique. In fact, even if you want to be a better runner, you still need to incorporate strength training into your routine. But when you’re strapped for time, and need to squeeze cardio and weights into a single sweat session, which should you tackle first? Strength training, according to the recent research and fitness pros.
In a recent study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers pinned three workout tactics against each other: Strength training alone, running then strength, and cycling followed by strength. They found that exercisers did fewer weight lifting reps if they had just ran or cycled. Yet, doing strength training with no cardio beforehand resulted in more reps.
“In my experience, I’ve found that most exercisers feel ‘stronger’ when they engage in resistance training first,” says Robert Confessore, PhD, clinical exercise physiologist at Summit Medical Fitness Center in Kalispell, MT. Many scientific studies also demonstrate that aerobic training can negatively affect strength development when performed prior to lifting (whereas research is lacking on the reverse effect), he says. This is due to physiological changes in the muscles that help you move. When you use those fibers to fatigue before you do resistance exercises, your form and drive will likely suffer.
And that can have a noticeable impact. According to Lacey Stone, an LA-based celebrity trainer, if you want the muscle-building benefits of strength training, it’s best to start with those exercises. “It’s vital that you lift before your cardio workouts, because you will have the most power and the most strength to lift heavier loads, which in turn will make you stronger,” she says.