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Thoughtful Thursday…3 benefits of combining weight training and cardio


Welcome to Thoughtful Thursday. This GreenNote Fitness newsletter mindfully gathers and distills useful information that is supportive to our journey. It is my mission to educate, inspire, and propel you into action that moves you towards your goals and life of purpose. Take control of your journey today.

I recently wrote about adding a cardio blaster at the end of a barbell complex set. This type of circuit is very intense as moving the barbell from one exercise to the next without setting it down can be a cardiovascular workout. There is a routine that is slightly less intense but still has great benefits. Yes, benefits and we love those! Why not make your training efficient and effective as possible? The routine? You strategically time cardio sessions into your weight training routine.

Let’s look at three benefits to this type of training and then some examples that you can begin to implement in your own training.

3 Benefits of combining weight training with cardio

#1. Removal of Lactic Acid

Why is that important? Because you can complete more reps, produce greater force, and experience far less lactic acid accumulation when you use a strategy of easy aerobics during your recovery between weight lifting sets. So instead of checking your phone between sets, you would do an easy aerobic exercise. This way, your next weight training set will be better.

Why does aerobic exercise right after strength training set work?

As best selling author Ben Greenfield explains: In most weight lifting scenarios, you are primarily utilizing an energy system in your body called anaerobic glycolysis. This is the process via which your body breaks down sugars into usable fuel for a forceful muscle contraction. But use of glycolysis results in significant accumulation of lactic acid. Too much lactic acid in muscle decreases force production capability.

Light aerobic exercise, i.e. cycling, jogging, jumping rope, can increase blood flow, which could increase the amount of oxygen that is available to either convert lactic acid to pyruvate - which can then be used as fuel - or to convert lactic acid to sugar in the liver via a process called gluconeogeneis.

What this looks like -

For example, after completing a set of bench presses, go to the Elliptical or jump rope or other form of aerobic exercise for two minutes then go back to your next weight training set and repeat.

Bench Press

Elliptical trainer

#2. Maintain Ideal Muscle Temperature

Why is that important? When you keep a muscle warm, you decrease the muscle stiffness slightly. A less stiff muscle can increase responsiveness of the muscle’s tendons and the mechanical force production capabilities. Translation - your nerves fire faster and it will help you to perform your next weight training exercise.

What this looks like -

Complete a set of squats for example, then go immediately to a stationary bike. Riding a bike post-squat weight training set can keep your muscles just warm enough to allow for optimum muscle contraction.

#3. Improved Nerve Speed

Have you ever noticed how fatigued you are towards the end of a weight lifting set? It is not just failure of your muscles that you are experiencing, but also fatigue of your nervous system as you lose the neural ability to recruit units of muscle and the firing frequency of your neurons. Interestingly, your nervous system not only operates at peak speed at ideal muscle temperatures previously described, but it also recovers faster than your muscles do.

If you are just sitting around between weight training sets, you are allowing your nervous system to “cool-down” more than it actually needs to. This may hinder your strength for the next set. By doing some type of aerobic activity, you can keep your muscle temperature high enough to ensure ideal neuromuscular activity for your next set.

What this looks like -

My recent weight training set included seated dumbbell shoulder presses followed by two minutes of jumping rope, then back to the shoulder presses.

Summary

We looked at three benefits of combing cardio activity with a weight training set. This combination:

  • Removes lactic acid which will help you complete more reps with more force production in your weight training set

  • Maintains ideal muscle temperature to help your nerves fire faster, ensuring ideal neuromuscular activity for your next set

  • Improves nerve speed which helps to complete your next weight training set as you begin to fatigue

You can use this weight training and cardio combo in various ways. We used three examples of a weight training set followed by a cardio exercise:

  • Bench press followed by the Elliptical

  • Squats followed by riding a stationary bicycle

  • Shoulder presses followed by jumping rope

Next time you head to the gym for your weight training exercise, add in some aerobic exercise right after each set. You will get results a lot faster if you combine aerobic exercise with weight training.

Enjoy your journey,

Lisa Schaffer

GreenNote Fitness

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