Cardio or strength training first? There is no perfect answer to the debate of whether or not cardiovascular training is better than strength training or which should be done before the other. The best way to find out is through trial-and-error!

If the goal of the athlete is to gain muscle then strength training and eating indiscriminately may be indicated. But doing so could also lead to accumulation of adipose tissue along with the anabolic effect. One would end up more muscular but look like a power-lifter or sumo wrestler, lacking tone and definition.

For the athlete who looks like a power-lifter but wants to be more tone, then cardiovascular training and indiscriminant eating training may be indicated. However, doing all that cardio would lead to a more gaunt look after the body burns off its stores or the athlete does not consume enough calories to support the increase in basal metabolic rate that comes with performing more cardiovascular exercises.


Instead of performing exclusively cardiovascular exercises or only strength exercises, it may be indicated that you perform some combination of the two. Thus no one type of training is better than the other when these two are compared.

It is up to you to try different combinations of performing both types of training…

…until you come across your ideal combination. Each person has a different ideal combination much like a fingerprint.

In strength training it may work to have sets exceed twenty repetitions, no more than twenty-five, if your goal is toning and to have sets not exceed ten repetitions, no less than six, if your goal is to build muscle. Know the difference between open chain and closed chain kinetic exercises; closed-chain movements are more functional in nature as they tend to feature compound movements. In either case the same repetition range guidelines apply.

One must know the difference between anaerobic and aerobic types of cardiovascular training. If the body can create energy and it supply itself with oxygen in a timely manner then aerobic training is being performed.

If oxygen supply does not equal oxygen demand within the body when it is creating energy required to perform physical activity then anaerobic training is taking place.

Aerobic exercise has the benefit of weight control and increased basal metabolic rate while anaerobic exercise increases cardiac output and maximal heart rate.

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Both cardio workouts and strength training workouts are physically demanding but in different ways. The cardiovascular workout targets mainly the heart and the strength workout targets the skeletal muscles contracting during the exercise. This may mean that one type of training must be more important that the other. But it is not that clear. The answer depends on the goal of the athlete.

If you only desire some form of change in performance, then what you look like may have to become less of a priority. If what you desire is a change in appearance then what you are capable of doing may have to become less of a priority. Some people base their goals on wanting to feel a certain way or being healthier than they were before starting a physical activity program.

All these goals are attainable within a given combination of strength and cardiovascular training. There are cases where athletes exclusively perform one type of training, for example an ultra-marathon runner and a sumo wrestler. The former exclusively does cardiovascular exercises and the later does exclusively strength training exercises.

So long as you are training to attain a particular goal for a particular reason then at least you are progressing towards something. Train in a way where there is a reason for the training you are doing and be willing to switch philosophies to match the goals you have set. Should your goals change then so should your workouts. This is how you train for maximum results!

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Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
Lost 13 Kg in Total
Mel, 32y Location: London, United Kingdom Working with Pollyanna changed everything. I lost 13kg, got toned and have more energy than ever! Get same results!


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Lost 45 Kg in Total
Chris, 50y Location: London, United Kingdom Lost 45kg after the age of 50 and now competes and wins physique competitions and runs marathons Check our weight loss plans