The great debate of whether you should do cardio before or after lifting gets brought up around this time of the year. Should you get your cardio in before or after you lift weights?
Below, we will go over the science behind cardio, how you should warm up, the different types of cardio, and lastly, when you should do it.
There are plenty of articles that talk about how cardio affects your recovery, but there aren’t too many going over when you should perform it.
A buddy of mine is currently training for the Arnold and is deadlifting more than 700lbs. Maintaining enough energy to lift heavy takes a lot of patience and teaching your body. Keep this in mind; it will be relevant further down..
What is ATP and why do I need to worry about it?
ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate, and it is a molecule your body creates when you train. It is basically a biological unit that accounts for energy.
So, what happens is your body breaks down carbohydrates, makes ATP, and this allows you to lift. ATP is stored in your muscles and your liver.
Knowing this, you can take a guess your ATP storage is limited, so use it wisely. Slogging through a 30-minute step mill session will deplete some, if not all ATP, which leaves you with little to no energy for lifting.
What do you do about warming up?
Warming up is something that many go overboard with, so lets break this down.
When you warm up, you do not need 20 minutes of cardio, 10 minutes foam rolling, 10 minutes static stretching, and five minutes of dynamic stretching… your body is not a frail little flower.
Tips on warming up:
- The goal is to raise your body temperature and get ready for moving. Think how you feel after you just get out of bed versus moving around for a few minutes.
- Pick something that will not affect your work output. A short brisk walk, a few minutes on the elliptical, etc. No need to get all out of breath.
- Before lifting, dynamically stretch and move the areas you intend to hit. If you are benching, do a set with the bar and then ramp up to your working weight.
- Stay moving – don’t start training and stop to text someone.
Find out if you should do cardio before or after lifting on the next page….
Different Types Of Cardio
There are different types of cardio that may or may not be best for you. Lets go over the different types of cardio, what goals they’re useful for and which type you should do.
The two main types of cardio are:
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)
Both types of cardio are great for different purposes. HIIT training in general is when you will perform a burst of activity with a period of lower intensity to cool down, and repeat.
An example of HIIT would be sprinting for 30 seconds and then walking for two minutes, repeating for five circuits. HIIT is a great way to increase your work output, increase your conditioning, and lose fat.
LISS cardio is more along the lines of 30 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical and maintaining the ability to carry on a conversation. So you aren’t going to be completely out of breath, but you will be working.
Choosing what type of cardio you should do is beyond the scope of this article, but now that you are aware of the different types, lets get into how much cardio you need.
How much cardio do you need?
Doing your cardio improves your overall quality of life, it helps your muscles recover by getting your heart pumping nutrient-filled blood to your muscles, and it can help you lose weight when accompanied by a healthy diet.
It is recommended you get exercise for at least 30 minutes, three times per week. Being consistent with your cardio and striving for progression will allow you to go up flights of stairs without being out of breath, will allow your body to run more efficiently and produce more energy, and will help you reach your fitness goals.
One thing before we move onto when you should do cardio… don’t look at the machine’s numbers, they are probably wrong. Instead of “how many calories you burned” focus on time, intensity, and distance.
So Cardio Before, Or After?
The answer you’ve finally been waiting on. Should you do cardio before, or after lifting?
While both answers are correct in certain situations, doing cardio after you lift will provide more benefits to the majority of readers. Not only will you be fresh and ready for lifting, you will be able to take advantage of your post-workout recovery by doing cardio after you lift.
Get your lifting in, smash a protein shake or BCAAs and hit the machines to get the most out of the time you spend at the gym.
So, there you have it. Doing cardio after you lift is a better choice for most individuals. We’ve provided the guidelines and facts for you to make your own decisions.
Chase your fitness goals and arm yourself with the knowledge that will lead you to reaching those goals. Everyone is different and you really need to dial in and learn your body.
If you must do cardio before lifting, try doing cardio in the morning and then lift at least a few hours later so that you are ready to lift.