Should I Split My Cardio Sessions?

This is one of the most debated questions in the exercise industry, and the reason for all the debate and disagreement is largely due to people wanting different results.

If you want to achieve a high level of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, then splitting your workouts between weights and cardio is a positive way to achieve a body of both muscular quality and cardiovascular excellence. This is generally how most ‘all rounders’ train, those who have been exercising for some time and simply seek to maintain their level of fitness, increasing endurance and intensity as and when it is necessary.

Splitting Cardio From a Muscle Gaining Perspective

From a bodybuilders point of view doing cardio after weights is pretty pointless because you cut into the recovery time of an anaerobic activity by introducing an aerobic activity. If bodybuilders do cardio after weights in the same session, as soon as they stop and have their routine protein shake the lipolysis process is interrupted and fat burning stops. A bodybuilder will do cardio separately or, achieve a low level of fat through targeted dieting. Should a bodybuilder do weights and cardio in the same session they will always do weights first, this is because cardio drains too much energy and restricts the performance of weight lifting.

Some people argue that weights and cardio should always be separated because muscle gain and fat loss are two completely opposite goals, and therefore it is logical that they should be targeted separately to optimize results. Yet others claim that by increasing the heart rate straight after a weights session through running, rowing or cycling, blood flow to the muscles and around the body will be increased, thus promoting muscle growth and recovery and simultaneous weight loss.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT training is specifically designed to lose weight. The idea is that you work the body at a high intensity for shorter time periods. For example you might sprint for 100 meters, rest for 2-3 minutes and repeat the exercise. A HIIT session will last for no more than 20 minutes, including the warm up and warm down. After this session you will need to rest for 24-48 hours because the workout burns energy from your muscle systems and they need time to replenish before you return for another session - the rest period is of paramount importance to achieving fat loss.

HIIT training is designed to stop you reaching a plateau. The idea is that you keep pushing yourself, exerting the body at high intensity levels and subsequently getting fitter and fitter. Once you have completed 6-8 weeks of a HIIT program, change your exercise patterns to keep the body guessing.

Splitting Cardio Sessions Over The Course of a Day

HITT can be split over the course of a day. So for example you could do 3 sessions of 7-minute intense training sets at different intervals, ideal for those short of time. Splitting cardio in this way means the body can work at full power, burning calories intensely rather than slowly over an hour’s jog for example. Many people believe this is a far more effective way to lose weight.

In Summary: Splitting Cardio Sessions

It really does depend on your goals, and with people reporting different results using different spilt techniques it is highly likely that body type plays a role in achieving your desired goals. For those who are overweight or are unfit, the HIIT split cardio sessions are without question a way of achieving fast weight loss and increased fitness. For those wanting greater muscle mass the general consensus is to split weights and cardio into different days, and for those with a good level of existing fitness and low body fat percentage the two can be effectively combined. That said, there is no one size fits all when it comes to fitness, only general rules to be adapted to suit the individual’s metabolism, body type and goals.

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