Cardio vs strength training

Strength Training vs Cardio – which should come first ?

cardio strength


Over the past decade exercise scientists have consistently shown that programs combining endurance training and strength training exercises have greater effects on overall physical fitness and health than prescribing one of these exercise modalities, alone. For example, endurance training is largely most beneficial for cardiometabolic health while strength training training is more important for musculoskeletal health.

One area of debate among exercise scientists is, when performing each mode on the same day, what the best order in which to prescribe endurance training and strength training ? For example, if you do strength training first, does this detract from gains in cardiometabolic health? Or if you do endurance training first does this mean that your musculoskeletal health outcomes are comprised?

The aim of this study was to examine if there were any differences in loading order on physical fitness, body composition and blood lipid profile.

Thirty four physically active and healthy men performed either endurance immediately followed by strength training or strength immediately followed by endurance training 2-3 x per week for 24 weeks.

Training in the study was supervised by qualified fitness instructors using the principles of progressive overload. endurance training was conducted using a cycle ergometer, and strength training included exercises for all major muscle groups.

Pre-and-post training participants completed tests for aerobic capacity (cycle ergometer) and muscle strength (1RM leg press). Venous blood samples were also analysed for blood lipids levels and several body composition components (such as, lean muscle mass, cross-sectional area of the thigh muscle and total fat mass) were assessed by participants undergoing a DXA scan.

What they found?

Pre-and-post intervention both the E+S and S+E groups both had similar improvements in aerobic capacity and muscle strength. Importantly, for endurance and strength outcomes there was no significant difference between the groups. This means, the order of exercise mode did not matter, and each group improved aerobic capacity and muscle strength in a similar magnitude.

The same trend was observed for lean muscle mass and thigh muscle size, which while both increasing over the intervention showed no between-group differences. No changes in body fat or blood lipids were observed in either of the two groups at week 24.

This study is important because it is among the first to show that, irrespective of the exercise order, E+S and S+E showed similar improvements in physical fitness.

Title: Fitness and lean mass increases during combined training independent of loading order.
Authors: Schumann M, Küüsmaa M, Newton RU, Sirparanta AI, Syväoja H, Häkkinen A, Häkkinen K.
Journal: Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Date: 2014