Combining Strength and Cardio Training: Does It Work?

Tom Kelso


St. Louis, Illinois, United States

Strength and Conditioning

Designing a training program can be both tedious and confusing. What days should you skill train? When should you perform endurance training? What about scheduling speed and agility training? You need to strength train, but should it be two, three, or four days per week? An often-neglected component is recovery day - how many and when? Whew!


A lot of factors must be considered. Not only the aforementioned, but your work and/or school schedule, family obligations, and unexpected events that pop up without warning. I firmly believe in bottom line, efficient training that “fits in” and allows time for other important matter. By efficient I mean demanding, quality workouts that create the proper stimulus with measurable results. And if you can kill two birds with one stone, do it by all means.



concurrent training, strength training, cardio training, aerobic trainingConcurrent training is a tactic used by many in both the general fitness and specific sports preparation populations. Some examples are same-day conditioning and strength training, sport-skill and endurance training, sport-skill and strength training, and speed and strength training. Are these combinations effective?


Looking at two training components – aerobic training and strength training – a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research was conducted that compared the responses of maximal oxygen consumption in different combinations of strength exercise performance and concurrent aerobic interval exercises.


Eight men with these average measures were used in the study:


  • Age: 23.6
  • Height: 5’-10”
  • Weight: 170 pounds
  • Body fat percentage: 7.67 %


The men completed three combinations of strength training (ST) and aerobic interval training (AIT) in a randomized order with a 7-day recovery period:



  1. AIT before ST exercises
  2. AIT between 2 sessions of ST exercises
  3. AIT after ST exercises


Strength training sessions included four exercises prescribed at 3 sets of 10 repetitions and two exercises (the abdominal crunch and low-back extension) prescribed at 3 sets of 30 and 20 reps, respectively. Aerobic interval training consisted of 20-minutes of interval cycling.



The findings of the study were interesting:



No significant differences in the absolute or relative values of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2), heart rate (HR), and respiratory exchange ratio (RER) exercise when comparing the three sessions using both during- and post-exercise measurements.


Investigating only ST in each session, differences were discovered in the RER between AT before ST and AT in the middle of ST.


In all three sequences, there was a significant increase in the values of relative and absolute VO2 and HR, and a significant decrease in RER values from the first to the second part of the ST session.


The values of absolute or relative VO2, HR, and RER did not vary significantly among the three sessions as compared with the AT after ST.


These data maintain the hypothesis that performing strength training and aerobic training in sequence in the same session does not seem to affect the overall oxygen consumption during the exercise session. Therefore, training sessions may utilize both modes of training without perceptible impact on aerobic exercise.


concurrent training, strength training, cardio training, aerobic trainingNow, how can these findings apply to your training program? For one, you can combine strength training and aerobic interval training in the same session without any negative results. This can knock out two components in one session. My advice would be to perform the aerobic training prior to strength training, especially if the legs are strength-trained in that session. I don’t know very many trainees who enjoy bombing their legs in the weight room, then turning around and going for a run.


Similarly, thought must be given to forthcoming training days. This applies to not only concurrent strength and aerobic training, but for all training components. Following a day of leg strength training and aerobic training, will you be fully recovered for activities scheduled the next day? A prime example of this would be scheduled agility drills and/or speed training following an aerobic/strength day. It would be more prudent to perform only upper body strength exercises to avoid over-training the legs, thus allowing for a more productive agility/speed training session the following day.


Be smart with how you structure your training program. Based on the result of this study, it is feasible to combine aerobic intervals with strength training without ill-effects. Be vigilant when it comes to forthcoming training components and their appropriate training days to assure you are experiencing quality training sessions.


Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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