If you combine strength training with cardio exercise, you probably start your workouts with the strength training and finish with the cardio. That usually feels best. It’s good to follow your intuition, say sports scientists at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland. They demonstrated that workouts that start with cardio and finish with strength training place a heavier load on your body so you need longer to recover.
Cardio training plus strength training
There’s much to be said for combining strength training and – in moderation of course – cardio training. Finishing a weights workout with 20 minutes of cardio exercise is good for your blood vessels for example. There are indications that you burn fat more easily during a post-weight training cardio session, and studies have shown that the combination of cardio and weight training is an excellent way to lose weight.
A disadvantage of combining these two forms of exercise is that it’s easy to overdo the cardio training, and as a result reduce your progression when it comes to strength, muscle mass and speed. On the other hand, if you can moderate your cardio training appropriately, you can use it to speed up your recovery from the weight training.
You are less likely to over-train if you plan your cardio training for the end of the workout, according to the study we’re referring to here. The study was done with two groups of 21 inactive young men.
One group [S+E] trained their leg muscles first on a leg-press machine. The men did 3 explosive sets with 40 percent of the weight at which they could just manage 1 rep [1RM]. Then they did 3 sets with 90 percent of their 1RM, so training for strength. After that they did another 4 sets with 75-85 percent of their 1RM, training for muscle mass.
The men ended their training with a 30-minute cardio session. They cycled at 65 percent of their VO2max, a level at which they could just carry out a conversation.
The second group [E+S] did exactly the same, but in the opposite order. These subjects started their workout with a cardio session and finished with the weight training.
Although both groups performed exactly the same exercises, the order in which they did it had an effect on the subjects’ recovery. The E+S group had less testosterone and more creatine kinase in their blood 24 and 48 hours after the workout than the S+E group. That suggests that their bodies had recovered less.
In terms of the cortisol level it made no difference what order the men used for their workout; nor did it make a difference for strength recovery.
“The present E+S loading seemed to require a longer recovery when compared to the S+E loading which may become important when utilizing single session combined endurance and strength training”, the Finns conclude. “However, additional research is necessary in order to investigate the relevance of the present findings with regard to prolonged training adaptations and athletic populations.”
Acute neuromuscular and endocrine responses and recovery to single-session combined endurance and strength loadings: “order effect” in untrained young men.
The purpose of this study was to investigate acute neuromuscular and endocrine responses and recovery to a single session of combined endurance and strength loading using 2 loading orders. Forty-two men were demographically matched to perform a single session of combined endurance + strength (E + S) or strength + endurance (S + E) loading. The strength loading was conducted on a leg press and included sets of power, maximal strength, and hypertrophic loads with an overall duration of 30 minutes. The endurance loading was conducted on a bike ergometer and performed by continuous cycling over 30 minutes at 65% of subject’s individual maximal watts. Both loading conditions led to significant acute reductions in maximal force production (E + S: -27%, p < 0.001; S + E: -22%, p < 0.001), rapid force produced in 500 milliseconds (E + S: -26%, p < 0.001; S + E: -18%, p < 0.001), and countermovement jump height (E + S: -15%, p < 0.001; S + E: -12%, p < 0.001), whereas no significant differences between the 2 loadings were observed. Maximal and explosive force production recovered after 48 hours after both loading conditions. Whereas no significant acute responses were found in concentrations of serum testosterone (T) and thyroid-stimulating hormone in the 2 loading conditions, concentrations of T were significantly reduced in E + S during recovery at 24 hours (-13%, p < 0.05) and 48 hours (-11%, p = 0.068), but not in S + E, and concentrations of thyroid-stimulating hormone significantly reduced after both loading conditions (24 hours: E + S, -32%, p < 0.001; S + E, -25%, p < 0.01; 48 hours: E + S, -25%, p < 0.001; S + E, -18%, p < 0.01). The loading conditions in this study showed that neuromuscular performance recovered already within 2 days, whereas endocrine function, observed particularly by decreased concentrations in serum T after the E + S loading order, remained altered still after 48 hours of recovery. These results emphasize the different needs for recovery after 2 loading orders.
PMID: 23222087 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]