May 5, 2011

Which comes first?

It is the fitness industry’s chicken or egg question: which to do first; aerobics or weight training?  In an ideal world, we would all have the time to do our aerobic and resistance training on separate days, but most of us are lucky to squeeze both into one session.  So is it better to do the aerobics or weight training first?
Most fitness experts suggest performing what is most important first. For example, if your goal is bodybuilding; lift weights first, if you are training for a race; the aerobics come first.  However, if your goal is to improve your health or lose weight, where should you start?
The research seems to point to doing the aerobic workout first.  The EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) is greatest when aerobics are done before resistance training.  The key, as usual, is intensity.  It seems the test subjects could maintain a higher intensity when they did their aerobic activity before lifting weights.  Therefore, they could burn more calories during and after exercise.  If you prefer a circuit or interval type workout where you alternate bouts of aerobics with weight training exercises, the research has shown a similar boost in EPOC if the workout is intense.
However, there is not an extreme difference between any of the sequences.  Variety and enjoyment are key to sticking with a fitness program, so feel free to change up the sequence and find what works best for you.

Drummond, M.J., Vehrs, P.R., Schaalje, G.B. and Parcell, A.C. (2005). Aerobic and resistance exercise sequence affects excess post exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19, 2, 332-337.

Chtara, M., et al. (2008). Effect of concurrent endurance and circuit resistance training sequence on muscular strength and power development. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22, 4, 1037-1045.

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