Strength and Cardio Splits

Which comes first, strength training or cardio? And, how much time do you need in between?

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When it comes to training at the gym, there is mainly two forms of exercise.

Strength training and cardio.

Sure you could say you have Tabata or HIIT which can in a sense be a combination. However, cardio and strength training are the two aspects of fitness involved.

When it comes to preparing a gym schedule based on your goals it can be tough to create a good strength and cardio splits.

Understandably, we all live busy lives and it can be tough to get everything done.

This is where questions start to flow on strength and cardio splits.

There are two specific questions that I want to discuss in this article.

The first question is, which comes first?

Secondly, should you separate the two by at least two hours?

Let’s break down this training split.

Who is on first?

Much of it depends on your goals. Are you training for strength, power, endurance, cardiovascular health?

If muscle strength and  power are not your main goals, it really does not matter much.

When it really matters is when you are trying to build muscle.

There have been many studies on the subject.

One key study shows the effects of cardio before strength training.

In conclusion, an aerobic exercise bout before strength exercise impairs the subsequent strength endurance performance.

When you look at all the studies, they show a definitive answer.

Take two individuals and compare the results.

Person A does an intense cardio session then goes to lift weights verses Person B who goes directly in to eight lifting and does cardio after.

Person A will have less available energy for strength training. They will possibly lift less weight, hit fewer reps, and fewer sets before fatigue.

I like how personal trainer Lacey Stone said it,

Strength training changes your shape and cardio changes your size.

If you want to build muscle then cardio comes second not only in your goals but second in routine.

Think about it too, we are always talking about the benefits of lifting heavy with our clients.

If you are physically taxed after cardio, how much weight can really lift in order to have progressive overload?

2 hour breaks

I very often hear people advise that when it comes to doing cardio after your strength training, you should wait at least 2 hours.

The reason being that even doing cardio shortly after a bout of strength training can inhibit your gains.

While yes there is some truth to this, I highly disagree with this advice for most people.

It makes sense if your are an athlete and training for a specific sport.

Generally speaking, if you have a career in fitness or a sport, your schedule is built around training.

Separating your workouts is feasible.

However, most people are not trying to compete professionally and its an inefficient use of time.

Who really wants to drive to the gym, workout for an hour lifting weights. Drive home. Then drive back two hours later for a 30 to 60 minute cardio session.

Forget about that advice and just do the two together.

If you have an hour, do 30 minutes of weight lifting and 30 minutes of cardio immediately after.

Truth is, all the claims about it affecting muscle growth are minimal in consequence. You probably would not notice any difference.

If your life is not built around training, why bother with an insane training schedule that could actually become a nuisance.

Good strength and cardio splits

Overall, whether you can train one, two, or three days a week, don’t worry about doing your cardio on the same day.

If that’s all the time you can set aside for training, combine them. It won’t make a difference. Just keep strength before cardio if you want to build muscle.

However, if you are able to do four, five, or even six days a week, why not break it up more.

For instance:

Monday – Chest day

Tuesday – Cardio

Wednesday – Back Day

Thursday – Rest or cardio

Friday – Leg Day

Saturday – Arms and cardio

Sunday – Rest

Another option you can try is training first thing before work and then after work.

I love getting up early and doing my cardio in the morning before breakfast.

Then in the evening I will do my strength training. At that rate, there is no effect on muscle ability as many hours have passed.


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Ronald Nattress

Ron Nattress is the Founder and Owner of the Pioneer Fit Project. Ron started his fitness career in 2003 as a certified personal trainer. Over the years he has developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge. With a desire to learn everything about fitness and nutrition he has dedicated a life to finding the ultimate balance of health. In 2017 he decided it was finally time to turn his passion into a full online fitness company. In the beginning of January 2017 Ron opened the Pioneer Fit Project with the goal of helping as many people as he could to live full healthy lives. He is currently working on a multitude of books and developing an online training program.

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