In this article I am going to address an issue that is probably in the top 3 questions I am asked by clients, and that regards: Strength training vs. Aerobic training, specifically the 'order' in which to do them. By now, most of us know that there are 3 main aspects of fitness: strength, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility. You probably also know the little trick to remembering that "FIT" can help you remember the three key factors in your workout: "frequency / intensity / time". But something that seems SO variable among programs and workouts is the old "which comes first" in the session, cardio or strength training. In reality of course, we should always switch these things up anyway, and use periodization when working up our programs, so that we are training our bodies in the most comprehensive way. But beyond that "general" issue, and dealing with a specific workout goal, let's take a look at the body and how one method will produce a different result than the other.
Your body stores different types of fuel for different types of 'work'. You have available "quick fuel" in the form of glycogen (sugar) in your muscles and liver. Think of this as 'one' of your body's 'gas tanks'. This is the "main" fuel your body grabs for when you need energy FAST, or need a lot of fuel availability at once, such as intense lifting. You also have that storage tank that we tend to dislike, the all important 'fat cells'. This fat fuel is mostly used for those activities that are low to moderate in nature, as your body needs more time to 'metabolize' this stored substance into 'fuel'. At all times your body uses a mix of fuel (for the purpose of this, and all of my articles, understand that this is somewhat 'simplified' to make the important issues easier to understand). Contrary to many statements made on products, nothing is going to make your body use only your fat OR only the sugar for fuel. However, different intensities most definitely use a different mix of the two.
Aerobic vs. Strength Training:
Note that I am calling this 'aerobic' work, which for this purpose is a bit different from 'cardio', because aerobic, by definition, is 'with oxygen', and involves training at a level at which you can still converse and breathe comfortably, whereas cardio training can be very intense and use mostly glycogen (your quick fuel). You can go on and on when working aerobically, and you will be using a greater percentage of your "fat" fuel during this kind of activity. Anaerobic cardio can only be maintained for a short time, due to the availability of the quick fuel.
For strength training, you need to 'overload' your muscles in order to make them respond and adapt to your work. You need plenty of 'quick' fuel for intense strength training, as your muscle's demand for fuel skyrockets! This is very different from AWT (aerobic weight … Read More