Cardio Before Strength Elicits Better Hormonal Response
Concurrent training is the term for combining training methods in a single session. Specifically, it’s when you do cardio and strength training not just during the same day, but also during the same trip to the gym.
This type of training is nothing new, but a recent examination by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shed new light on its effects on anabolic hormones.
The existing research on this topic hasn’t been well designed, and there’s surprisingly little of it. Take a piece of research I covered about this topic in the past. We learned that it didn’t make a huge difference whether cardio or strength training was performed first, but the subjects were all sedentary at the start. As such, we saw the odd result of the cardio-first group being stronger at the end.
Fourteen supplement- and steroid-free men volunteered for the study. They were split into one of two groups depending on the type of training they performed first in each session. One group performed cardio training first, followed by their strength session. The other group did the opposite.
The participants in this new study were in good shape. They were strong and had decent cardio ability. They were also already experienced in concurrent training, having performed it a minimum of three times a week during the last year.
The endurance training involved 32 minutes on a treadmill. The athletes performed intervals of one minute of moderate intensity running with two minutes of a casual jog. The paces they kept were individualized, based on a specified amount of blood lactate the pace would induce. For these athletes, the paces ranged from a little under five miles per hour to a little over seven.
The strength training program was of a hypertrophic nature, comprising three sets of ten reps using seventy percent of each participant’s one-rep-max, with one minute of rest in between sets. That’s pretty standard fare. The exercises used included squats, bench presses, leg presses, and lat pulldowns. They also did three sets of thirty crunches and back extensions with their body weight.
As it turns out, anabolic hormones like testosterone had a stronger response when the cardio was done first. Much like the prior study with untrained women that I mentioned above, these results indicate that cardio first might be a better approach. The researchers noted that these results were also in agreement with prior research on men who were experienced only in strength training and who followed a more strength-oriented program.
The most common wisdom in the gym is to perform strength training before cardio. However, evidence is mounting that cardio first is a superior approach. While we need more research to be certain, we now have good reason to try out new methods.
1. Claudio Rosa, et. al., “Order effects of combined strength and endurance training on testosterone, cortisol, growth hormone and IGFBP-3 in concurrent-trained men,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000610
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