Want Weight Loss? Your Exercise Schedule Matters!

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An Optimal Exercise Schedule for Weight Loss?

The conversation about cardio first or strength training first is a long-standing one. A fairly large body of research over the three decades I’ve been teaching fitness have collectively said that order doesn’t have a lot of significance.

That said, I’ve always shared with my clients and customers, or students that whatever you do last will be harder. Do the highest priority thing first. That brings me to a recently published study that found strength exercise performance is negatively impacted when cardiovascular exercise precedes it.

If you’ve read previously published blogs (in fact, look at Tuesday of this week!) on weight training and their value for weight loss or body composition optimization (losing body fat!) then you know it’s crucial to lift heavy weights so long as your joints will allow it. This new study suggests that you may be compromising your ability to do that if you do any of four types of cardio that were tested in the study before it. The different types included aerobic endurance, as well as interval training and two moderate workouts between these extremes. It’s safe to say that all cardio reduced the resistance training performance of the subjects.

Screen_Shot_20160102_at_5_0740EF9499E8AHow To Plan Your Resistance and Cardio Exercise

So what should you do based on that information?

With a little planning, you can still get quality cardio and quality strength training, even on the same days if necessary. Two potential options are included below.

  1. Plan your higher intensity cardio days, whether thats longer duration or its high intensity intervals on days when you don’t strength train. Do  your strength training on the alternate days.
  2. Do two-a-days. Plan either your strength or your cardio early in the day and the other late in the day. For a slight hormone advantage I would recommend the cardio early and strength late. If you must get both in on certain days due to a specific schedule, this will give you the opportunity to recover before doing the strength training. You need to take full advantage of hydrating, getting adequate protein and the right kind of calories, and even elevating your feet if you can (under the desk!?) to boost recovery.

It’s important to keep in mind that as we age resistance training should become a more major player in our fitness routine. If you’ve always treated it as a kind of sidekick to say, your group fitness classes, or you hit a couple machines after cardio, it’s time to rethink. If you give resistance training it’s due spot of importance in your workout you will find your progress and results are boosted.

Lifting weights? Tell me about your schedule. Any questions about how to make it work for you?

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4 thoughts on “Want Weight Loss? Your Exercise Schedule Matters!”

  1. My schedule only allows for late day workouts, and I incorporate both into one workou, short spurts of catdio with strenth trsining in between, will that work?

  2. Debra Atkinson

    You absolutely have to work within the realistic schedule you have. So if it must be late day exercise, it must! As far as mixing it up with cardio and weights, I would answer with a question about what your goals are. For variety this can work fine. Both can get “cloudy” when you mix them up. Your cardio isn’t as high quality and your resistance training isn’t either. Moving from one to the other you don’t likely lift as much as if you were focused on strength training. You don’t necessarily program for optimal cardio conditioning either. If you have 40 minutes for instance, I recommend most often 20 minutes high quality cardio intervals and 20 minutes high quality strength training. The energy expenditure during (and after- which is a greater impact on your longterm goals) is bigger.

  3. Hi Debra. What about abs after cardio intervals? You’ve suggested (in a video) that there was a metabolic advantage to doing core training after cardio.

    I read something about elevated testosterone if one does the strength training last. Is that true, and is that a good thing or not?

  4. Debra Atkinson

    The advantage of doing core after either cardio or weights (or both if you’re doing both in the same session is not so metabolically motivated as safety. Performing core and fatiguing core may reduce your ability to stabilize and recruit core so that you can exercise with optimal form. So yes, always core, always last before cool down.
    It’s a little less about testosterone impact from order and more about how you strength train. Heavy weights, fewer reps, major muscle groups is a better testosterone boost that light weights many reps, small muscle groups. And both intervals of adequate intensity and weight training boost testosterone, with weight training having the most positive impact. That said, whatever you do last will be hardest. Most of my clients over 32 years have found a preference for cardio first and weights second if they do both during the same session.
    You will potentially get a better boost in strength training independent of cardio – alternating days for instance.

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