Q I’ve always been told to do 20 minutes’ cardiovascular (CV) work before weight training. Is there any benefit to this? If I walk to the gym first, is that enough of a warm-up? And does it make any difference if I do CV work after weight training instead of before it?
A Before any type of training you should perform a warm-up, to increase respiration rate and blood flow to the working muscles as well as raise the muscle temperature. This increases the flow of nutrients to, and waste products from, your muscles and makes them more flexible.
Five to 10 minutes, targeting the body areas to be subsequently exercised, should be sufficient for a warm-up activity. Walking to the gym may be an adequate warm-up, depending on how you walk; most people’s walking speed is probably too slow and would not include upper body movement. To overcome this you could walk briskly, swinging your arms (“power-walking”) so you begin to sweat and become out of breath. If you’re already in your gym kit, you can begin your workout as soon as you arrive at the gym.
If you warm up in the gym, you could try yoga-type exercises or dynamic movements without weights, such as walking lunges to warm up hips and legs, instead of sticking to the CV machines. This has the same effect as a traditional warm-up, but also stimulates the neuromuscular system and works your joints through a wider range of motion. It is probably best suited to more experienced gym users who have good flexibility. A word of caution though: if an exercise is challenging then it’s not a warm-up – it’s part of your main training session.
As to which order is best when combining CV and resistance training, consider your goals for the session. Tackle the hardest or most important part first (for example, cardiovascular intervals before circuit training or heavier weights before a cardiovascular endurance session). In general, do your weights first while you are fresh; you will be stronger and able to maintain a better technique.
— Ant Smith, personal trainer