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Train To Gain: Cardio Conundrum

Putting aerobics in its place.

Q: Why do you advocate doing cardiovascular work before, rather than at the end of, a weight workout? Most of the trainees at my gym do their aerobics at the end of their weight session.

A: I’m quite aware that most people put their aerobic work at the end of their anaerobic weight workout rather than before. I believe that approach to be far less effective. Here’s why.

1) Doing aerobics after working out can cause injury. Aerobic work, because of its low-intensity nature, doesn’t get into the deep muscle fibers or stretch the tendinous attachments the way heavy weight-training exercises, like squats, do. If you do heavy squats and leg presses one day and then do your running or cycling the following day, when you don’t weight train, the tendons haven’t regained their tautness. Tendons don’t recover at the same speed as the muscles, which have an abundant supply of blood to facilitate recovery. It’s even worse if you do your aerobic work immediately after a leg workout. You’ve opened the door to joint pain and serious joint injury. Conversely, if you do the aerobics first, you don’t adversely affect the weight workout at all. In fact, you warm up the bodyparts for the hard, heavy work to come.

2) Doing aerobics before working out can increase conditioning and help you burn more fat. Hard aerobic work, such as sprinting and running up hills, creates an oxygen debt that even a superbly conditioned bodybuilder may not be able to completely dissipate for an hour or so. If you go right from hard aerobics into heavy weight training, especially leg work, you’ll convert the subsequent hard weight training to a combination of anaerobic and aerobic work that will not only superbly condition you but will also burn stored bodyfat at a rate faster than when you do aerobics at the end of a workout.

The only negative thing that will happen if you do your aerobics before your weight workout is that you’ll be tired going into the weight workout. Who cares? You’ll also be thoroughly warmed up, and you’ll overcome the tired feeling and the oxygen debt after a week or 10 days of training this way. The aerobics-first approach won’t cost you any strength at all. Try it, you’ll like it. IM

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