Cardiovascular exercise, before or after weights?


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One of the most repeated doubts in the world of fitness and in general in people who perform physical exercise is knowing when to perform cardiovascular exercise. If you want to combine with the weights if it should be before or after them.

First of all, I will explain what cardiovascular exercise and anaerobic or weight exercise consist of and their physiological demands so that you can better understand why you should do them before or after your physical exercise session.

Anaerobic exercise

When we talk about doing weights, within fitness, we are referring to exercises that are performed mainly thanks to glycogen and amino acids that are in the muscles where oxygen is not necessary to perform them, hence it is called anaerobic. They are strength exercises, where intensity prevails in execution. This is the key to fitness, in each movement of each repetition a high intensity must be maintained, where the heart rate of the individual who practices it is raised to the maximum even until reaching muscle failure.

Aerobic exercise

On the other hand, when we refer to cardiovascular exercise, we are referring to an exercise performed at a low or moderate pace in which fat is used as energy (mainly it is what is sought), and also muscle glycogen, always in the presence of oxygen, hence it is aerobic.

It should be borne in mind that if cardiovascular exercise is performed at a very high intensity it becomes anaerobic exercise, this occurs when we exceed 80% of our maximum heart rate, which is more or less what is known as the anaerobic threshold.

Having explained what each type of exercise consists of and the physiological demands of each one, I will go on to answer the great question that many athletes ask themselves:

When should cardiovascular exercise be performed? Before or after weights?

The answer to this question is it depends on your goal, that is, what you want to achieve in your physical exercise sessions.

If your main goal is a cardiovascular exercise that you do in conjunction with weights, cardio should be done before weights. Why? Because the most important thing and what in the end you want to improve is a cardiovascular exercise, and you must have your energy peak in that part of the training. Therefore, doing cardiovascular exercise before weights are better when this exercise is precisely what you want to improve and the weights are only a complement to improve your marks. For example, a long-distance athlete who goes to the gym on rainy days to run on the treadmill and do some weights to gain power in the legs, should do the treadmill first and then the weights.

On the other hand, if your goal is to build muscle mass or define it, then this is when you should do cardio after weights. Why? Because it is convenient for you that the glycogen that you store in your muscles at the beginning of training is invested in lifting the more weight the better, so your muscle development will be greater.

In addition, doing cardio after bodybuilding exercises has another benefit: if what you are looking for is to lose fat without losing muscle mass, it is important to perform cardio after weights, since in this way during weight training you will have depleted your glycogen reserves and during cardiovascular exercise, a greater amount of fat will be eliminated.

Many people think that doing cardiovascular exercise before weights is not a very serious mistake, because the only thing that is lost is glycogen and what it causes is that the weight session will not be as intense but it will be effective in all ways. This thinking is a big mistake, because it is true that having less glycogen in the deposits, the weight routine cannot belong and intense enough, and we must be clear that performing an intense routine is the key to provoke an adequate stimulus to the muscle to produce improvements in training.

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