Treadmill before or after weight training is yet another workout dilemma. We know that both are important to most fitness programs. But does workout sequence matter?
Science is inconclusive as to whether to do cardio or weight training first. However, the order of your exercises has effects on your workout results. And it all depends on your fitness goals, whether to lose weight, build muscle or improve general health.
So, if you cannot decide which exercise should be first, here’s a short guide to help you out. Hopefully, this improves your overall workout experience and outcome.
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Treadmill Before or After Weight Training: How to Decide
Some people are not particular about workout order or sequence. That’s because exercise time should be fun. And so, most choose to do exercises they enjoy first.
However, others have big reasons why they need a more active lifestyle. And in that case, the type of exercise and its order matter. For instance, some need to lose weight efficiently to treat health conditions.
Others require more muscles or higher endurance to improve their athletic performance. So, when choosing which exercise to do, start with identifying your priorities. Matching your fitness goals with the proper exercise maximises your workout without feeling fatigued.
Here are some sample goals or scenarios to explain this further.
1. To build strength and muscles: Do weight training first
Complete physical and mental energy is necessary when lifting heavy loads. Doing cardio sessions first will only make you breathless, sweaty and too stressed out. All these post-workout effects combined lessen your focus. Lifting weights with lower brain power increases your risk of injury.
Moreover, your tired body will not be able to sustain the proper weightlifting form, affecting your workout results. The less tired your body is, the better your weightlifting performance. And this has been backed up by research.
Researchers in 2015, for example, compared the results of cycling or running on a treadmill before and after weight training. Their findings showed that participants had low weightlifting repetitions after running or cycling first. Participants who lifted weights without cycling or hitting the treadmill beforehand had higher reps.
In another study, researchers concluded that running on a treadmill at different velocities before resistance training negatively affects weightlifting performance. They measured the effects based on heart rate, muscle power, completed repetitions and rate of perceived exertion (RPE).
2. To lose weight: Do either first
Some say that doing cardio before weights is ideal for weight loss. It’s because lifting weights first may tire you out before even getting the optimum calorie-burning effect of your treadmill workout.
More importantly, weight training has a high afterburn or resting metabolic rate. Specifically, you can continue burning calories up to 38 hours after your strength training exercise – something you will not get from cardio workouts.
However, another research showed that cardio activity before weight training led to better fat metabolism. Because of these varying views, I felt it is okay to use the treadmill before or after weight training if your goal is weight loss.
If you want, try doing cardio training first for a few days, then switch to starting with weightlifting to see what feels best for you. And if you end up liking the treadmill-then-weights routine, I suggest doing a steady-state cardio, like the 12-3-30 workout. It should get your heart into the fat-burning zone without making you too tired to lift weights.
3. To boost cardio: Do the treadmill first
Running is, after all, a type of cardio exercise. And so, naturally, you should prioritise your treadmill routine to improve your heart health.
Lifting weights first before your treadmill workout will only affect your stamina and proper form. Findings of a 2013 study even showed that participants had a lower running performance after strength training first.
4. To stay fit: Do the treadmill first
If your fitness goal is to maintain your healthy weight, you can create a workout plan with cardio and strength training. For instance, you can do light cardio exercises, like a 10-minute treadmill run, to warm up the body.
Doing this first should help you perform more intense movements, such as heavy lifting. Aside from giving you energy, an initial cardio workout boosts blood flow to prep your large muscle groups.
Better circulation enhances your range of motion and protects you from injury. Afterwards, you can proceed to do your weight training. A combination of dumbbell moves or free-weight exercises is a good start.
So When Should You Use the Treadmill?
Staying fit and healthy through exercise involves burning calories and building muscles. This is why cardio and weight training go well together.
But which should you do first? If you have specific fitness needs, using a treadmill before or after weight training should depend on your goals.
Bodybuilders, for example, should focus more on boosting their muscle mass by lifting weights. On the other hand, runners can train on the treadmill more to improve their leg power and stamina.
But, for most of us who work out for good health, exercise balance, rather than order, matters more. Make sure to give equal priority to workout consistency as well.
Q&A About Treadmills and Weight Training
Traditional fitness experts usually recommend doing cardio and weight training on separate days. However, you can always do concurrent training with adjusted exercise intensity that matches your fitness level. Doing separate workout sessions within the day is also an alternative. What’s important is it works with your schedule, and you give your body enough time to recover.
Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. How you break this requirement down depends on your free time and fitness goals. For instance, you can do treadmill workouts thrice a week with two weight training days. Or do low-intensity treadmill exercise daily with three days of strength workouts. Just make sure to have time for adequate recovery.
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