Thursday, November 1, 2012

Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? the name of an excellent Alex Hutchinson

but also the subject of this study that indicates that cardio before weights might not be as bad as we tend to think.   Then there any such thing as cardio?

Aerobic exercise does not compromise muscle hypertrophy response to short-term resistance training.
AbstractThis study tested the hypothesis that chronic aerobic and resistance exercise (AE+RE) would elicit greater muscle hypertrophy than resistance exercise only (RE). Ten men (25±4 yrs) performed 5 wks unilateral knee extensor AE+RE. The opposing limb was subjected to RE. AE completed 6 hrs prior to RE, consisted of ~45 min one-legged cycle ergometry. RE comprised 4 x 7 maximal concentric-eccentric knee extensions. Various indices of in vivo knee extensor function were measured before and after training. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) assessed m. quadricep femoris (QF) cross-sectional area (CSA), volume, and signal intensity (SI). Biopsies obtained from m. vastus lateralis determined fiber CSA, enzyme levels and gene expression of myostatin, atrogin-1, MuRF-1, PGC-1α and VEGF. Increases (P < 0.05) in isometric strength and peak power, respectively were comparable in AE+RE (9 and 29%) and RE (11 and 24%). AE+RE showed greater increase (14%; P < 0.05) in QF volume than RE (8%). Muscle fiber CSA increased 17% after AE+RE (P < 0.05) and 9% after RE (P > 0.05). QF SI increased (12%; P < 0.05) after AE+RE, but not RE. Neither AE+RE nor RE showed altered mRNA-levels. Citrate Synthase activity increased (P < 0.05) after AE+RE. The results suggest that the increased aerobic capacity shown with AE+RE, was accompanied by a more robust increase in muscle size compared with RE. While this response was not carried over to greater improvement in muscle function, it remains that intense AE can be executed prior to RE without compromising performance outcome.

I still find it interesting that James Steele's review paper is clear that all of the metabolic, molecular and cardiovascular impacts of "cardio"  can be gained with less time investment, more efficiently, from proper resistance training.


George Adventures In Health said...

Having read through the abstract, I'm not sure how relevant this is for those of us helping others to decide how to arrange their workouts.

Why? A couple of things stand out;

The cardio was done 6 hours before, rather than just before the resistance work, surely this gives a pretty reasonable amount of time for recovery? I know that, as long as I don't absolutely batter myself with a long and very hard run, or with interval training, that I'm perfectly capable of doing some low to medium intensity cardio, then doing some weight later, and have the weights be done at my normal intensity. Second thing about this timing arrangement seems to be 6 hour gap between cardio and resistance. How many people have time to do two sessions a day? Not many, I'd wager.

I also wonder why they chose to do one legged stuff, instead of alternating days? Whilst the leg that was exposed to cardio would obviously experience energy depletion, there would also be systemic effects, surely?

I welcome your thoughts,


George Adventures In Health said...

Dr Andro has just published an expanded set of insights to the the 6 hour separation study, check it out here:

Thanks again,

John Sifferman said...

I agree with George. Six hours before will likely yield very different results than right before. Cardio done immediately before resistance training is almost guaranteed to reduce both quality and quantity of resistance training performance. So, I tend to recommend resistance training first because I don't want fatigue to interfere with proper technique during strength training.

George Adventures In Health said...

I'm with John on the technique thing, whilst a bit of solid cardio might not change the physiological response too much, I know that it sure makes it harder to put the required effort in with the resistance training. And if we can't put the right effort in, we don't get the best results.

Cheers John,

Chris said...


Thanks for pointing out the Suppversity study. That is a great blog.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that if you are going to combine cardio and resistance training back-to-back that the second one in the sequence will suffer. So either vary which one comes first or choose to do that one first which is the focus of your training goals.