Cardio or Resistance Exercise First?

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By: Robbie Durand

Concurrent training (CT) has been widely used in fitness centers to simultaneously optimize cardiovascular and neuromuscular fitness, and induce a high-energy expenditure. For years there has been debate on the role of cardio and its impact on muscle growth. Most bodybuilders and athletes perform cardio first proceeded by resistance exercise, whereas other perform resistance exercise first follows by cardio. The question is? Does it make a difference whether cardio is performed first or after resistance exercise and does it impact anabolic hormones. Researchers compared the acute effects of 2 different orders of cardio and resistance exercise on hormonal responses in concurrently trained men. Fourteen men were randomly divided into 2 groups:

  • endurance training followed by strength training
  • and strength training followed by endurance training.
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In conclusion, these results suggest that immediately postexercise testosterone and IGFPB-3 responses are significantly increased only after the endurance exercise followed by strength training order.

Serum concentrations of testosterone, cortisol, growth hormone, and IGF-1 binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) were measured before and after both training orders. IGFBP-3 works by blocking the ability of IGF-1 and to activate the IGF1 receptor (which stimulates cell proliferation). So having high levels of IGFBP-3 is going to result in less binding capacity of IGF-1. The IGF-1/IGFBP-3 ratio has sometimes been used as an index of IGF bioavailability in the human circulation. A significant interaction between exercise order and time was only found in the IGFBP-3 levels. The testosterone and IGFBP-3 concentrations significantly increased in the endurance then strength training group after the exercise trainings but did not change significantly in the strength training followed by endurance training group. Conversely, cortisol and growth hormone concentrations significantly increased in both groups compared with baseline values. No significant correlations were found between the changes in the hormonal concentrations. In conclusion, these results suggest that immediately postexercise testosterone and IGFPB-3 responses are significantly increased only after the endurance exercise followed by strength training order. Therefore, an endurance exercise followed by strength training order should be prescribed if the main focus of the training intervention is to induce an acute postexercise anabolic environment. So if your looking for the optimal way to increase anabolic hormones such as testosterone and IGFBP-3, make sure you do cardio first and then end with a strength training session.

Rosa C, Vilaça-Alves J, Fernandes HM, Saavedra FJ, Pinto RS, Dos Reis VM. Order Effects of Combined Strength and Endurance Training on Testosterone, Cortisol, Growth Hormone, and IGF-1 Binding Protein 3 in Concurrently Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Jan;29(1):74-9.

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