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Question for Weight Training Experts

Recently I read that it's best to lift weight before cardio because cardio will deplete your glycogen stores and if there's none left during weight lifting then your body will burn muscle - so it's self defeating.

True? What is your experience?

I am new to committed weight training, but an avid exerciser - I spin 3-4x per week, plus pilates, yoga and some light cardio (treadmill). I have 50 pounds to lose and I'm stuck on a plateau, so trying to increase the weights to help get me unstuck (while working on the body I want underneath the extra weight!)


Mon. Dec 12, 10:40am

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Good question

I am dying to hear the answer to this. I was told by the trainer who works with Jennifer Lopez that he has her do the crunches and strength stuff before hand because it reminds you and your muscles to stay engaged.


Monday, December 12, 2005, 11:35 AM

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Who do you consider to be an "expert"?

Perhaps the way your question is worded is scaring off people who could provide some valuable input. I do not consider myself an "expert". To my mind, people who make their living from some aspect of strength training and conditioning are "experts". I would guess that there are relatively few people in PeerTrainer who would consider themselves to be "experts".

I do, however, consider myself to be a well-read enthusiast on the subject of weight training. I have been lifting fairly seriously for the past 20 years, have trained people in strength training, and have competed as a powerlifter. While this is perhaps not sufficient background to give you the succinct answer you appear to be seeking, I can perhaps give you some insight and provide you references for further research.

My own procedure and the procedure I have taught other people is to do a good stretching routine (20-25 minutes) to get loose, and a quite challenging abdominal routine (10 minutes or so) as a general warmup before lifting. The stretching routine I do is basically Hatha yoga.

The abdominal routine is similar to what gymnasts might do for their own abdominal work. I start by hanging from a pullup bar and doing leg lifts so that my feet touch the bar between my hands. Right now I do approximately 60 "hangies" all told, but I didn't start at 60 the first day! After doing the hanging work, which takes about half of the time for the abdominal routine, I do a series of leg lifts, crunches, etc. to finish the routine.

To my mind, the ab work is the most challenging part of my overall strength workout, quite frankly, and I am well warmed up by the time I pick up a barbell.

If you would like more info on the strength routine I have taught, and which I am generally using right now, please search for the thread "weight routine". There is quite a bit of information in the postings that might be useful to you.

An excellent resource on the subject is "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning", Thomas Baechle, editor. It is published by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and is perhaps the definitive reference on the subject. It should be available from a good library, or it can be purchased from or other book sellers.

Good luck with your program.


Monday, December 12, 2005, 2:05 PM

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Digby, This is INCREDIBLE information. Thank you, especially for the abdominal workout. After 2 children, this is definitely in need! I agree with the "expert" part of it. Many "expert" weight trainers aren't even fit.

Monday, December 12, 2005, 2:38 PM

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I don't want to start controversy, but I always learned (I was a cheerleader in high school, and worked with various coaches, and gymnastics coaches as well, and dated a couple football players) that you're supposed to do ab work at the end of your regular workout because whether you're doing cardio or weight lifting, you need your abs to do either. If you tire them out at the beginning, you're less likely to have as good form during other exercises, and more likely to get hurt. If you wait until the end to work your abs, well, you really only need your abs and if everything else is tired, that doesn't matter as much.

As for my exercising, I tend to do cardio first to get my heart rate up, starting with a 5-minute walk and then going on to running, etc., and ending with a 5-minute walk cool-down, and then do some lifting, and then abs. Or, sometimes I'll combine lifting and abs by doing arm exercises with dumbbells while sitting on an exercise ball - waaaayyyy harder than you think! I don't claim to be an expert by any means though, I could be doing it all wrong! All I know is that I was taught never to do abs first.


Monday, December 12, 2005, 4:14 PM

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Just to add my two cents worth I have always heard to do your warm up, then your weight lifting, then your cardio. I have heard two reasons for this, first, you are fresh when you do your weight lifting. You don't want to be tired and then go into lifting where you could do damage to yourself. Second, you've already got your metabolism working from weight lifting and when you go into cardio you are just continuing to burn. This doesn't even have to be a hard cardio workout. You can do a casual walk and get the benefit. This process has always worked well for me. Good luck!

Monday, December 12, 2005, 4:45 PM

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I generally run in the mornings, then do weight lifting and ab work in the evenings (I don't have time for both in the mornings!). I find that if I do weights in the mornings, I sometimes have trouble running in the evenings.

Monday, December 12, 2005, 6:50 PM

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what I've heard / read is that you should do a short cardio warm up -- like 5 minutes or so on treadmill -- before lifting weights, to warm the muscles, and get the heart rate and blood flow up. This will help prevent injuries. But do the main cardio afterwards.

Friday, December 23, 2005, 12:20 PM

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How often can one lift weights.. what is the best way to get started?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006, 10:21 AM

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As usual, there is conflicting info. I think one reason why is that there are different goals and you cannot optimize for every result in a single workout plan.
I think there's pretty wide agreement that it's better not to do heavy weight training "cold", The warmup could be lighter weight movements, or some other type of activity. As I normally do weights in the evenng after moving around a lot all day, I usually don't do a formal warmup, but if I were doing weights early in the day, I'd do 5-10 min cardio and some lighter arm weights to start.
As for training programs, that's probably too big a subject for a comment, but there are loads of reasonably good beginner books. The most usual recommendation is 3x a week for any specific muscle group, but you can do different muscles on different days. The rest day between workouts for the same muscle is crucial. When you have trained for a while, you may need to have more than one rest day if you train hard.
Running and heavy leg weights at the same time is one of those problems of conflicting goals. If you push hard on both, injury risk goes up somewhat and you probably don't get the best possible progress on either one.
Like some others here, I've been told to do abs after doing anything else that requires core stability to protect your back. I imagine this is more of an issue with free weights than with machines.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006, 11:01 AM

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Expert Advice

A warm-up of some kind first 5-10 minutes, then strength training, then cardio last. Strength training uses glycogen (stored carbohydrate energy in muscles). With cardio, you want to burn fat, but if you do it before your weights you will burn off glycogen primarily and it will take a whiile to deplete that until you get to the point that you are burning predominatley fat. By doing weight training first you use up most of the glycogen in your muscles and the only thing left to burn is fat, so you burn much more of it by doing cardio after the weights! If you do cardio first, you use primarily glycogen for your energy source. Then, you go to lift weights and you don't have much strength or energy left because you've depleted your muscles prime energy source, glycogen. Weight training will burn more claories over a longer period of time than cardio, so you want to optimize your efforts in the gym by having plenty of energy to do high intensity weight workouts.

Friday, April 18, 2008, 9:41 PM

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