Does order matter?
A common question that I get asked time and time again is about what type of exercise should I do first.
Do I start with cardiovascular exercise (cardio) like using the elliptical trainer or do I start with resistance training (RT)?
The great thing about this question is that there have been multiple scientific studies that have looked at this specific question and found some interesting results.
The most interesting outcome has been the interference effect. When I hear the word interference I think of a sporting context where the defence has "interfered" with the offensive play. Kind of like in football where the ref signals a foul when one player is illegally tripping, pushing, or pulling the other player who was eligible to catch the ball. You know those big plays in the end zone!
So within the exercise context, the interference effect means that the initial exercise mode interferes with the second mode.
When we structure our workouts with back to back cardio + RT or RT + cardio, it is possible for the interference effect to occur.
More specifically, a moderately intense bike ride may fatigue the leg muscles so much so that when it is followed by squatting exercises, the legs are unable to produce the same amount of force they normally could if done without the prior bike ride.
What is the common rationale is that the body is fatigued (physically and mentally) and is unable to perform as expected. However, it is also possible that the energy required to perform the second mode has been depleted and thus our performance is hindered as we don’t have the appropriate energy to complete the movements.
Most studies (but not all) have shown that the second mode usually gets the short end of the stick.
Cardio + RT favours:
RT + cardio favours:
Although science can provide some answers, it is also important to know what works best for your body. We have to remember that study results are not on you. And sometimes it takes some personal experimentation to determine the best order for you.
I like to recommend to start with the mode that you want to focus on that day. Put all your energy resources from the start into the first mode then know the secondary may not get the best from you.
To give you a glance into my exercise routine, I simply start with a brief cardio to warm-up then head into my RT, thus possibly limiting the fatiguing effects on my muscles by limiting my cardio time.
When I want to focus on cardio, then I solely focus my efforts there. Little to no RT that session.
Yet, in those time crunched moments, I jockey between intervals of cardio with RT for a real challenging session. I'll save more on that for another day!
Finding the right balance of cardio and RT can be tricky. If you are finding you aren’t making the gains you'd like, sometimes it might be your exercise mode order.
Feel free to reply back to this email if you need an exercise order tune up!
I am here to support you in your physical activity journey.
Stay well and happy moving,
P.S. Need to read the science? This recent research article will have you covered!
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