‘Cardio & Weights: Structuring Your Exercise Program (Part 2)’ written by Tanya Doherty published in Great Health Guide (August 2015). Receive answers to 1. Which exercise should you do first – cardio or weights? 2. Should weights be used to build muscle mass whilst cardio for improving heart and lungs? Read other fitness articles on Great Health Guide, a hub of expert-inspired resources empowering busy women to embody health beyond image … purpose beyond measure.
Fitness: How To Structure Your Exercise Program (Part 2) – Cardio & Weights written by Tanya Doherty
Weights or cardio – what part should be done first? Should it be the weights for strength and muscle mass or the cardio for improving heart and lungs? It really comes down to individual choice, but it depends on the result that you are after.
Last month in Part One, I discussed the importance of the warm up prior to beginning your main workout. Now we progress to look at cardio and weights which will become the main part of your workout. Next month’s issue I will discuss cooling down and flexing.
If you focus on cardio first, then the weights that you lift will be lighter compared to doing the weight workout first. That is because the core muscles are already partially fatigued due to lowered muscle glycogen. Try both ways i.e. cardio then weights or weights then cardio and find out what feels best for you. Alternatively, you can always do weights and cardio on separate days or do a spilt session during the day. It really depends on your goals, time and inclination. Again, I emphasise the need to check with your General Medical Practitioner, to determine your suitability before performing these exercises.
Structuring Cardio and Weights
I would like to emphasize the importance of keeping a record of your workouts. Too many people don’t keep track of times, weights, repetitions and sets which will delay achievements. Following a plan and structured program will ensure you continue on track moving to new levels of strength and fitness.
For the main part of your exercise program, there is a wide range of activities that you can do. Whether cardio or weights, have a set routine for how often you do the activity per week and this will make all the difference to how successful your exercise routine will be.
The Cardio Workout:
This can be either a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or a Steady State Workout.
1. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):
This may sound hard, but it’s likely that you have already been doing this type of training without knowing it. HIIT means that your heart rate will be going up and down for the duration of your cardio set, as opposed to staying at one level. HIIT is a great way to burn fat and efficiently use your time. It also increases your fitness levels quickly.
There are several ways to perform HIIT, while working at about 80% of your full capacity. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Pick a distance – or even better, a hill if you’re so inclined – and run in one direction as fast as you can. Jog or walk back to the start line to recover. Repeat this as many times as you can. A fun thing to do is to time yourself and try and beat your time.
ii. Going for a run
Instead of staying at one speed, pick lamp posts, cars, trees – any landmarks at all – and sprint to them. Then jog and keep repeating for the duration of your run. This is also known as fartlek training. Fartlek is a Swedish term that means ‘speed play’.
Swimming is often an underestimated form of exercise. It is a great alternative to running or other exercises that impact your joints since the water supports your body. Swim 25-50 meters as fast as you can. If you’re a regular swimmer, pick a longer length, 100m for example. Take 30 seconds rest in between laps.
iv. Mix up your weights and cardio
Instead of doing weights and cardio separately, make up a circuit of weights with some cardio exercises in between. These can be bodyweight exercises to ensure a smooth transition and keep your heart rate up. Some ideas are jump squats, bunny hops or burpees. (for a burpee: from a standing position, bend down and kick out your legs to adopt a push up position, complete one push up, then jump up to standing position and repeat the exercise. There are good examples of the burpees on YouTube).
Please remember if you do a HIIT workout, you can’t do it for as long as a Steady State Workout and that’s completely fine. Aim for a 15–20 minute session, two or three times per week.
2. Steady State Workout is a great way to train for endurance.
During Steady State training, your heart rate will stay around the same level. When doing Steady State cardio, the goal is to be able to maintain a conversation and feel comfortable while maintaining your efforts. Running, swimming and bike riding can all be used as a Steady State workout as long as you maintain the same pace and intensity over your selected distance.
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