Should you run before you lift? Lift before you run? Does it matter...?
"Should I be doing cardio with strength training (i.e. lifting weights, etc…) or will that hinder my progress for performance? What if I simply choose to do cardio to train for an event? Will I lose strength?"
Well , this is a fabulous question and one that I get in a variety of different forms through social media, messages or emails.
First and foremost: the groundwork:
There are a ton of variables that can be involved with this, so when that question comes across, the very first reply is “it depends.” It depends on how much cardio are we talking about? How much strength training and how often? What’s your nutrition like (a mild surplus is needed to add any meaningful mass).
With that said, we have done some studies on this and can apply the general consensus from those studies to the overall idea here.
One recent study is particularly enlightening.
They studied groups: (a) lifted first and then did cardio, (b) did cardio and then lifted, and (c) just lifted.
Here’s what they found:
For Body Composition
It doesn’t matter.
That’s right. It. Doesn’t. Matter. No matter how you split hairs, you’re likely to develop the same amount of lean body mass.
If your main focus is to increase strength regardless of acquisition of lean body mass (yes, there’s a difference), then again – it doesn’t matter. Nearly all groups increased strength at the same/similar rates.
For Improving Cardio Function?
Well, no surprise here- you’ll need to incorporate some kind of cardiovascular exercise (be it HIIT or endurance-based). Both cardio groups improved dramatically more than the lifting-only group.
One very important thing to consider here when deciding whether to do cardio or lifting first is muscular fatigue.
If lifting before doing a cardio-based training (specifically if it’s endurance-related), there have been signs of poorer strength in the lower half of your body.
The fix here is easy. Spread the session out and make sure you're doing all you can to recover well.
Link to the study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32407361/