I have blogged in the past about the question: which should I do first, cardiovascular exercise or weight training? There are benefits to either, but I am seeing a growing number of people actually doing both, at the same time, in a given exercise session. This brings me to blogging about the topic of concurrent training.
Concurrent training, or doing both cardiovascular training AND strength training, has more traditionally been done one at a time. In other words, an extended session of strength training would then be followed by an extended session of cardiovascular training or vice versa. There has been much discussion as to which should be done first and whether or not there is greater benefit to the order. However, I am witnessing the popularity of concurrent training growing across the board of ability levels – from Curves to Crossfit -and everything in between.
There are a few ways you can go about achieving concurrent training:
- At the same time, or simultaneously, during a given workout.
- Doing two workouts in a given day; for example, strength in the morning, and cardiovascular activity in the afternoon.
- Separate workouts on different days; for example, Monday, Wednesday, Friday cardiovascular exercise and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday would be devoted to strength training.
One of the most attractive benefits to this approach is just the practicality of potential time savings. This makes sense. I mean, who has time to be hanging around “resting” in between sets? Simultaneous, concurrent training does what I like to refer to as “killing two birds with one stone”. (Not literally, PETA friends). With the proven benefits of aerobic training as well as with strength training, concurrent training has the potential (depending on the program variables) to:
- Build muscle
- Develop strength and power
- Improve maximal aerobic performance
- Augment post exercise oxygen consumption
- Improve VO2 max in some populations
- Improve fat utilization
Sign me up!
My first thought with any training method or approach is safety. The second is effectiveness. So with that in mind, if you are doing concurrent training or are using this approach with clients, here are some considerations to keep in mind when utilizing simultaneous, concurrent training methods:
- Goals should be established prior to starting this type of training. This will dictate how to design the program. If aerobic power is the goal, then you should consider the implications and what research says about the order in which you place this modality. If weight loss is the goal, you may need to tweak the training variables accordingly. Strength, power, and muscle hypertrophy may require ordering resistance training first. Goals must be established so that the program variables can be prioritized.
- All of the training variables should be given special consideration once the goals have been established. This includes safe and appropriate exercise selection, proper exercise order/sequence, intensity and total volume, how often and how fast the training is completed, and how much rest is necessary. The answers to all of these variables can be approached once the goals are set.
- Technique must be emphasized. I am seeing time and time again where concurrent training, especially high intensity, can be so extreme that exercise rate is done at very high speeds and technique and form are very poor or break down. This is a major safety concern and a non-simultaneous approach may be necessary. In other words, separate training sessions might be warranted in those instances.
- Many approaches include multi-joint activities, which are not what I would consider to be beginner type of exercises.
- Recovery time is essential and should be directly related to total training volume. This too may warrant a non-simultaneous approach and can be done so by splitting workout sessions into two separate sessions if necessary with appropriate rest time vital to successful outcomes.
- Last, but not least, is that with more and more high-intensity training of all types growing in popularity, we can’t forget the American College of Sports Medicine basic exercise guidelines for total activity in a given week. While three session of high intensity exercise at 15-20 minutes may be very challenging, it would still fall short of basic exercise guidelines for general health.
Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise
Garber, Carol Ewing Ph.D., FACSM, (Chair); Blissmer, Bryan Ph.D.; Deschenes, Michael R. PhD, FACSM; Franklin, Barry A. Ph.D., FACSM; Lamonte, Michael J. Ph.D., FACSM; Lee, I-Min M.D., Sc.D., FACSM; Nieman, David C. Ph.D., FACSM; Swain, David P. Ph.D., FACSM