When it comes to the gym, most of us are easily stuck in our ways.
Maybe you go for a run for half an hour, cycle for 20 minutes and then head to the weights area.
But according to one fitness professor, for some people, the order in which you do said exercises makes a difference to your overall results.
Some studies have shown that doing resistance training first – like lifting weights, squatting and planking – can increase muscle strength in certain areas, as well as improve mental health.
Meanwhile, other research has shown that elite athletes benefit from beginning with strengthening exercises – as cardio first can prevent the muscles from growing.
Muscles adapt to cardio exercise, which inhibits their ability to grow and strengthen during resistance training sessions immediately afterward, experts say
According to Randal Claytor, Associate Professor of kinesiology, nutrition and health at Miami University, doing weight lifting before running can result in a ‘small increase in lower-body muscular strength‘, compared to an opposite routine.
This order does not ‘compromise all the other improvements in health-related physical fitness’.
He goes on to explain, in an article written for The Conversation, that the body adapts quickly to the type of exercise it is doing. During cardio, like running or cycling, the muscles play a crucial role in producing enough energy to keep you going.
Resistance exercises include weight lifting, squatting and planking, and are proven to offer a host of health benefits
When you stop doing this and start lifting weights, it takes a little while for the muscles to revert to normal. Therefore, the process of building new proteins is not as effective.
This is what experts call ‘the interference effect.’
‘If your exercise goals are along the lines of staying generally healthy and enjoying the mental benefits of moving your body, resistance training first might provide a little boost,’ wrote Professor Claytor.
Prof Claytor points to evidence from studies involving elite athletes.
‘ Given research findings about concurrent training [doing weights and cardio simultaneously] for high-level athletes, it makes sense to do resistance exercise first,’ he says.
Or, he adds: ‘Train first in the type of exercise most important to your performance goals.’
But most important, Prof Claytor says, is that you do both types of exercise. This comes with plenty of benefits for cardiovascular health – and is more practical for those with limited time in their day to fit in exercise.
Resistance exercise improves muscular strength, endurance, power and size. It also lowers blood pressure and reduces spikes in blood sugars.
Aerobic exercise, or cardio, is linked to a reduced risk of several diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
Prof Claytor adds that those who exercise competitively ought to leave at least three hours between sessions of different types of activity to reduce the impact of the interference effect.
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