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Is Cardio Better Before Or After Resistance Training?

By Russ Howe


If you are trying to maximize lean muscle growth, should you do cardio before or after weights? This question is regularly asked in gyms around the world by folks trying to learn how to build muscle quickly and today we'll answer it with the latest scientific findings.

It is not uncommon to hear a different answer each time you ask somebody for advice in the gym. That's because a lot of the health and fitness industry is built upon opinion rather than fact. There are many areas which haven't yet been scientifically researched enough and, until recently, this was one of those areas.

Thankfully, several high profile studies have now been carried out and confirmed the answer to this common gym query.
The video today will explain whether you should do cardio before or after weights in the gym.


The answer may surprise you. Despite popular opinion, you should be performing your cardiovascular work before you begin weight training. Most instructors and fitness enthusiasts recommend doing it the other way around, the theory behind that approach being that if you hit the weights after a cardiovascular session your muscles will already be significantly worn out.

Despite the old theory that you'll exhaust your muscles if you do aerobic work before resistance training, science proves that the opposite is true. Test subjects experienced better weight loss and muscular hypertrophy when they did aerobic work first.

What about HIIT? The same results applied here too.

This happens because of the release of two enzymes in the body during physical exercise. They are known as AMPK and mTOR. AMPK is the body's call to action to help you adjust to aerobic activity.

The second enzyme, mTOR, is the key which turns on the muscle building process after a resistance training session. The bad news is that AMPK kills off mTOR, meaning if you stay in the gym after a training session and perform prolonged cardiovascular exercise you are significantly blunting your own muscle building process. Granted you can still achieve results, but they would be significantly superior if you did things the opposite way around.

The release of mTOR signals the beginning of the muscle building process in the body, meaning this golden window lasting around one hour is a fantastic time to consume quality nutrition to enhance your results further. This period lasts a total of 6 hours, so you ideally don't want to be performing aerobic activity during this time.

If you choose to separate your training into two sessions, bear in mind what we have just pointed out. Research shows that you should separate your two training sessions by at least six hours, so if you want to hit the weights first thing in the morning and then the treadmill later in the day that is absolutely fine, just ensure there is enough time between both sessions to maximize your results.

If you were wondering how to build muscle by optimizing your resistance/cardio split you now have the latest scientific findings to help you do that. Whether you currently do cardio before or after weights doesn't really matter, it's what you do from this point on which counts towards your future results.




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