It's a question practically as old as exercise itself: What comes first, cardio or strength training?
Typically, fitness professionals will tell you it depends on the person. Someone looking to make big gains in the weight room won't want to have totally depleted her leg muscles by running on the treadmill first. Then again, cardio may be a more effective tool for less experienced gym-goers or those individuals looking for particular health benefits, like warding off type 2 diabetes, for example.
But a pair of new studies suggest it may not matter so much after all. The research, from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland, followed a small group of young, fit men through 24 weeks of exercise. About half of the men performed cardio first, followed by strength work. The others did the reverse. After 24 weeks, both groups showed similar increases in endurance, strength and lean body mass, according to one of the studies. In the very beginning of their exercise routine, the men who performed cardio first showed reduced testosterone, according to the other study. The drop-off could potentially slow recovery and muscle growth after a tough workout. However, the difference in testosterone between the two groups of men had disappeared by the end of the 24-week trial, according to the study.
The researchers concluded that training order may, then, be more a matter of personal preference. However, they do offer a word of caution: Changing the intensity of exercise, the frequency, or both may show different results, especially given the slower recovery of men performing cardio activities first. More research will be needed to determine the impact of training order in more experienced athletes who might be demanding more of their bodies, since the men in this study were exercising only two to three times a week.
What do you think? Does the order of your workouts matter to you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!