Can you combine cardio and resistance training, or do they interfere with each other? If you want to achieve both high endurance and solid strength, how should you plan your training? The questions when it comes to these two training methods are many, yet recent years research on the topic has been somewhat confusing.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to be able to maximize both your cardio and resistance training performance – simultaneously.
The Myth about combined Cardio and Resistance Training
A couple of years ago, a common conclusion was that cardio training negatively affects the results of resistance training. Research at the time [1, 4] observed that exercise programs where cardio and resistance training was combined lead to decreased development in strength and muscle mass:
“These findings would support the contention that combined strength and endurance training can suppress some of the adaptations to strength training and augment some aspects of capillarization in skeletal muscle.”  However, the above claims remained rather vague and as further studies were performed, this data became more and more questionable.
One of the main reasons behind this was that the negative correlations that had been identified were seen when experimenting on rats . Scientists then discovered that humans respond differently to the same treatment [6, 7, 8, 9]. In fact, newer studies actually suggest that there might be positive benefits from combining cardio and resistance training  – if planned properly.
So, what can we make out of all this research collectively?
Well, that there is an “effective way” and a “less effective way” to attack combined cardio and resistance training. Because although the negative correlation might not be as bad as previously perceived, you could still risk over-training or injuries if your training program fails to balance rest and work [10, 11].
Consider your total Training Volume
The moment that combined cardio and resistance training becomes a risk is when your total training volume is too high. In other words: if you expose your body and muscles to excessive stress by training too hard for too long, you won’t have sufficient time to recover.
This means that the results from your workouts will decrease.
The problem, then, is not the fact that you combine cardio and resistance training; but how you do it. Let’s say that you perform two lower-body and two upper-body resistance training sessions per week.
If you then also add two running (cardio) sessions on top of that, your lower-body will be exposed to a total of four sessions in one week. Unless you are a professional powerlifter-athlete, this results in massive stress for your leg muscles and thus; lower gains in strength and muscle mass.
Another aspect that you should take into consideration is the fact that all types of exercise fatigue your body, regardless if we’re talking about cardio or resistance training. If you just finished a running session, it’s likely that you’ll need at least a few hours – or maybe even several days – before your strength is fully recovered again.
And if your strength levels aren’t 100%, well, then you won’t be able to perform your best during your next resistance training session.
This is the reason why it’s so essential that your training volume is in balance.
So, what’s the best way to combine Cardio and Resistance Training?
Up-to-date research  shows that the most effective way to integrate both cardio and resistance sessions into your training program is by separating them: The time window between the two different training methods should be at least 6 to 24 hours.
This rest period enables better recovery and enhances muscle development, especially around the front thigh . Secondly, if you prioritize strength and muscle growth over endurance, then you should always schedule your resistance training sessions prior to your cardio sessions [12, 13, 14].
Another useful way to keep your training volume balanced is by making some of your workouts consist of high-intensity intervals. This is highly beneficial since it allows you to work both your endurance and strength in one workout, rather than two separate ones.
What Type of Cardio Should You Do?
By now, you should have a good grip of how to combine cardio and resistance training in order to minimize the negative effects – and maximize the positive effects.
But what type of cardio should you be doing?
When reviewing research, data suggests that running affects strength levels more negatively than cycling . This is most likely because running involves a lot of eccentric work, which tends to cause a lot of high impacts. Apart from cycling, other types of cardio such as swimming or rowing could also be a good substitute for running.
One of the most important things you need to keep in mind when reading this article is what personal goal(s) you have. If you want to become a good endurance athlete, then you should probably spend the majority of your time performing endurance related activities (cardio).On the other hand, if you want to increase your strength and build muscle, then you should focus more on resistance training.
Basically, if you want to become good at something; that’s where you should invest most of your time.Still, if your goal is mainly to be healthy and you enjoy doing both cardio and resistance training, follow the recommendations we’ve just discussed:
1.Separate cardio and resistance sessions by at least 6-24 hours
2. To increase strength and build muscle; always perform resistance training first
3. Keep your training volume balanced by combining cardio and resistance training in high-intensity intervals
4. Cycling is better than running in combination with resistance training
Hopefully, you’ll now have more knowledge about how you can create your own training program to improve both your endurance and strength levels.
Good luck with your training!