Let’s start with one incontrovertible fact: you can’t fulfill your ultimate potential as both a weightlifter and a marathoner at the same time. Too many hours sweating on the elliptical will hinder your ability to put on muscle, and pumping too much iron will slow your endurance gains. – excerpt from “Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?”
This is a quote from Alex Hutchinson’s new book “Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?” and sets the tone for this big question. Before I go on, I must say that Alex’s book is a must-read for fitness professionals and enthusiasts alike. Many of the most common, but puzzling questions that you have ever wondered about fitness and exercise science are tackled in an easy to understand manner. My goal is to write a full review on the book soon!
Back to the question at hand. Cardio or weights first?
Do you think that Patrick Makau who recently broke the world record in the marathon (2:03:38) could maintain that epic endurance and even come close to competing in a strong man competition? No, ridiculous I know – but I would love to be able to do both!
Most of us are not elite athletes and want a simple combination of endurance and a bit of muscle to show for our efforts. With regard to an optimal endurance-to-muscle combo, NBA players come to my mind. Many of them have bulging biceps and deltoids that pop from their shoulders yet (note my jealousy), they can run up and down a 94 foot basketball court for up to 48 minutes.
What do you want?
The key according to Alex Hutchinson’s book is to focus on your priority. What’s more important to you; being able to run in the local upcoming 10k race or being able to blend in with the crowd as you strut down Venice Beach? If it’s the 10k, focus on your endurance and put your time in on the treadmill before moving over to the weights. If it’s the beach on your mind, you should pump up first and follow it up with some cardio at the end of your workout.
Now to dive down into the question of cardio or weights first a bit deeper.
Researchers have determined the common enzyme (AMP kinase) that dictates the process for both muscular growth and endurance enhancements. The enzyme switch is either set to “muscle” or “endurance”, but not both. Once the switch is turned in either direction, it’s essentially locked there until the completion of your workout.
Your goal is endurance = do cardio first
Your goal is building muscle and muscular strength = do weights first
Want a combination of both? Alex Hutchinson’s book recommends periodically switching it up to challenge your metabolism. Cardio first one day and weights first in your next workout.
The book “Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?” is available from Amazon.