Tip of the Week

The Forum for Endurance Athletes

Tip of the Week

Postby natellerandi » Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:45 pm

A proper warm-up at the beginning of a workout is ingrained in us. Supposedly without a good warm-up, we put ourselves at higher risk of injury and underperformance during the workout. Especially when we lift weights. Doing cardio followed immediately by a weight session is a good way to increase the bang for your buck at the gym.

However, some studies suggest that it's more beneficial to lift weight first and then do your cardio right afterwards. These studies show as much as a 30% increase in calorie burning by doing cardio after lifting rather than before.

Burning calories is an intrinsic part of what we athletes do. While we're aware of this, it's probably not at the forefront of why we do what we do. Rather, it's a benefit. Burning calories keeps us looking fit while the exercise itself keeps us feeling fit. So, this post isn't about "losing weight."

If you're able to burn more calories at a given intensity and duration of workout simply by shifting things around, why wouldn't you do it? The premise is that lifting weights turns on and keeps on the calorie-burning far longer than aerobic exercise does. By lifting weights first, your body is in a heightened state of calorie burning, and the muscles are already taxed. And, chances are, your fast twitch muscle fibers are fatigued. All this adds up to increased cardiovascular adaptation and caloric burning if you complete your aerobic exercise after lifting weights.

I've tried this lately and I can tell you that my furnace is definitely running hotter and faster when I bike or run after lifting than when I do either exercise before. I also find I'm hungrier the rest of the day and into the next morning. This tells me the body stays turned on longer by switching things up.

I was reluctant to try this approach -- doing weights first -- because I was afraid that I might increase the risk of injury by not warming up first. But, I decided to dive right in anyway. What I found was that the very first set of the very first exercise (or first set of 2 super-set exercises) felt a little awkward or less than optimal, but after that the body was clued in and ready to go for it. This reminded me of opinions I read a long time ago about warming up being over-rated. The premise was that predators in the wild don't warm-up before breaking into full sprints after prey, and prey didn't call a time-out to warm-up before sprinting away from a predator's attack. On the surface, this makes perfect sense. Now, I'm no biologist, so I haven't a clue as to just how different our bodies react to stimuli vs animals in the wild. After all, we're not faced with life-or-death situations each and every day.

Still, maybe our bodies are ready to go more than we give them credit for. How many times do we read about athletes almost missing their start times? Like the swimmer that lost track of time, realizes his/her race is being called up behind the blocks, misses his/her regular pre-race preparation but still turns in a PR?

In any case ... from my own experience, it feels like the body handles lifting weights without first warming up just fine. And I also definitely notice an increase in the cardio benefit from an aerobic exercise post-lifting rather than pre-. For those of us crunched for time, doing your workout directly after lifting rather than beforehand could be another arrow in your quiver to squeeze more out of your workout time and help spur your progress forward more quickly.

Happy Training,
Nate Llerandi
Posts: 33
Joined: Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:44 am

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