Hi, I do roughly an hour and a half at the gym 3 times a week. Which are you supposed to do first...weights, free weights and machines or cardio work? I get differing opinions from whoever I ask.
This is a good question and often a confusing topic because the answer is not blank and white. There is not one particular order that is the best overall but it is rather more a matter of what combination/order is more effective for a particular goal, i.e. weight loss, cardiovascular fitness, increased strength and muscle tone.
For weight loss and/or muscle toning and strength I would advise you to do weight training / resistance exercise / free weights before your cardiovascular exercise. This is because training your muscles groups this way first allows your immediate energy sources to be used for more ‘anaerobic’ work which generally allows for more toning and strength gains. It also means that by the time you start doing your cardiovascular training your body’s energy reserves are lower and so the body has to start pulling from its fat reserves for energy sooner and more effectively.
In addition the standard order for most exercisers has always been the other way around (so starting with cardio) and this is another superb reason for changing it as variety is one of the most important reasons behind altering the order, to prevent the body from getting use to your routine.
For cardiovascular fitness gains / endurance, i.e. if you are training for a sport / endurance event, then cardio first may be more appropriate as you want to prioritise your main goal first while you are most energetic. Research has shown that doing cardiovascular training first before weights has a direct detrimental effect on one’s ability to then strength train so gains are lower from the resistance / strength training. Obviously if your aim is a half or full marathon then weight training will not be your priority over endurance so this wouldn’t matter.
Although the answers I have given may make it seem perhaps a little over-complicated, one thing you can take as black and white is the following:
The best solution for weight loss long-term would be a combination of all the different formats for your exercise workout. So some days do cardio first and others alternate your strength training in first. This will prevent your body becoming accustomed to the demands of the session and ensure overload which means calorie burning!
Hope this helps,
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