There are 1001 arguments to do both strength training and cardio training, but it’s also crystal clear that the types of training can compromise each other. Finnish sports scientists at the University of Jyvaskyla discovered that both types of training go best together if you do them on different days.
The Finns divided 102 participants aged 18-40 into three groups. All groups did supervised strength and cardio training for a period of 24 weeks. The researchers also made sure that the training volume was identical in all groups.
The SE group trained 2-3 times a week and combined strength and cardio training in the same workout. The participants did strength training first and then cardio.
The ES group trained 2-3 times a week and combined strength and cardio training in the same workout. The participants did cardio first and then strength training.
The DD group trained 4-5 times a week and did strength and cardio training on different days.
The maximal strength of the participants in all three groups increased by about the same amount. The fat free mass â€“ in other words muscle mass â€“ increased a little more in the participants who did their strength and cardio training sessions on different days, but the difference was not statistically significant.
The fat mass only decreased by a significant amount in the participants who did their strength and cardio workouts on different days.
The most important factor in fitness and endurance capacity is the maximal amount of oxygen your body can absorb – the VO2max as sports scientists call it. The participants whose VO2max increased the most were the ones who did their strength training and cardio training on different days.
“The present study showed that all of the three modes of combined strength and endurance training were effective in increasing maximal strength and endurance performance as well as lean body mass in healthy individuals following 24 weeks of combined strength and endurance training,” the researchers wrote. “However, the increases in endurance performance were larger in magnitude when strength and endurance were performed on different days in comparison with that produced by same-session training.”
“Furthermore, body fat mass was decreased only following combined strength and endurance training performed on different days.”
“While the mechanism for this phenomenon was beyond the scope of the present study, separating strength and endurance training into more frequent sessions performed on different days seems to be a valid option for healthy adults who wish to simultaneously optimize body composition and improve physical fitness.”
Fitness, body composition and blood lipids following 3 concurrent strength and endurance training modes
This study investigated changes in physical fitness, body composition, and blood lipid profile following 24 weeks of 3 volume-equated concurrent strength and endurance training protocols. Physically active, healthy male and female participants (aged 18–40 years) performed strength and endurance sessions on different days (DD; men, n = 21; women, n = 18) or in the same session with endurance preceding strength (ES; men, n = 16; women, n = 15) or vice versa (SE; men, n = 18; women, n = 14). The training volume was matched in all groups. Maximal leg press strength (1-repetition maximum (1RM)) and endurance performance (maximal oxygen consumption during cycling), body composition (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), and blood lipids were measured. 1RM and maximal oxygen consumption increased in all groups in men (12%–17%, p < 0.001; and 7%–18%, p < 0.05–0.001, respectively) and women (13%–21%, p < 0.01–0.001; and 10%–25%, p < 0.01–0.001, respectively). Maximal oxygen consumption increased more in DD vs. ES and SE both in men (p = 0.003–0.008) and women (p = 0.008–0.009). Total body lean mass increased in all groups (3%–5%, p < 0.01–0.001). Only DD led to decreased total body fat (men, −14% ± 15%, p < 0.001; women, −13% ± 14%, p = 0.009) and abdominal-region fat (men, −18% ± 14%, p = 0.003; women, −17% ± 15%, p = 0.003). Changes in blood lipids were correlated with changes in abdominal-region fat in the entire group (r = 0.283, p = 0.005) and in DD (r = 0.550, p = 0.001). In conclusion, all modes resulted in increased physical fitness and lean mass, while only DD led to decreases in fat mass. Same-session SE and ES combined training is effective in improving physical fitness while volume-equated, but more frequent DD training may be more suitable for optimizing body composition and may be possibly useful in early prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.