When Should You Do Cardio?

I think people generally get the impression that I’m anti-cardio. I never really mention it in fairness. I’m big on getting women strong and focusing on lifting heavy things. However, I’m in no way against running, cross training or cycling.

I just feel women place TOO MUCH emphasis on it. There seems to be a myth that you need to do cardio to lose weight. I try to shift this emphasis towards lifting weights and getting strong AF.

 I do understand the benefits of cardio. It can increase calorie burn, it is great for mental health and may actually improve gains made from strength training.

However, it must be programmed correctly. The intensity (difficulty), volume (amount), frequency and time carried out all must be taken into consideration. Today I’d just like to touch on WHEN you should do cardio.

Before Strength Training?

The short and simple answer here is no. If you want to negatively affect your gains from strength training then doing cardio before your weights is one way to go about it.

It makes sense when you think about it. There is no way you’re going to have enough energy to deadlift or squat heavy after 40 minutes on a crosstrainer. You’re mentally and physically shot after the cardio.

Research has backed this up. One study showed that when performing cardio before weights, 20% less repetitions were performed. This is important as volume (total amount of weight lifted) is a major factor for muscle building.

The only cardio I do before weights is during my warm up. I think this is essential for warming up the body. I’m not one to jump straight into some warm up bench press sets; I need to raise my core temperature and suggest you do the same.

Doing 5-15 minutes (depending on how cold you are) is plenty.

After Strength Training?

If you need to do your cardio on the same day as your strength training then this is the way do go. This will ensure that you have energy to complete your strength training.

Doing rigorous cardio before your strength training will almost definitely diminish your gains (see study above).

That is dependent on the fact that you ACTUALLY want to get stronger. If you just want to improve your overall fitness it may be less important. I’m sure as a follower of my work you understand the benefits of being strong so perhaps leave the cardio to later.

On a Different Day?

This would be my preference. This way means you will have lots of energy for both lifting and cardio. You can give your all to both with neither affecting the other (if all other variables are correct).

However the downside is that takes up significantly more time. This requires going to the gym or doing a run 5-6 days a week. Banging out your cardio and strength days together saves on a bunch of time.

How About Not At All?

This is an interesting one. Should we even bother with cardio in the first place? Do we need it? It depends.

I believe everyone should do SOME form of cardio and I think most do without even realising it. Cardio doesn’t have to mean going to the gym, putting on the leggings and slogging away on the bike for 45 minutes.

I’m sure you go for a few walks in a week? That 15 minute stroll down to the shops that was cardio in a way wasn’t it?

The only people I believe that can get away with doing no cardio are people that are extremely active during the day. If you’re clocking up 15,000+ steps in a day is there any real need for you to do cardio? I’d suggest not.

If you work a sedentary (no movement) job then it’s imperative you do some form of cardio. You need to make up for the lost activity during your 9-5.

With most things in fitness the context of the individual is important. I might need to do cardio whereas the next man or woman might not.

Is Your Cardio Enjoyable?

Einstein once said ‘when you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second, when you are sitting on a hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.’

There are two forms of cardio I do; my football training and walks in the Leitrim countryside. Why do I do those? I enjoy them.

Jogging on a treadmill or plodding along on a cross trainer is excruciating for me. Boring is an understatement. I need a challenge or scenery to enjoy it. I can clock up a lot of steps during those two activities, yet I don’t notice it.

The same amount of steps or calories burned on a treadmill would be torture. That’s why Einstein’s quote comes to mind.

If you’re not a highly active person (which most aren’t) you should be incorporating some cardio into your training regime. Where this occurs is down to your goals and/or your time availability. Choose something you enjoy and be consistent with it.

See, I’m not anti-cardio!

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If you’re interested in taking part in a program with me why not send me an email to jamesmcdowellhealth@gmail.com

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