Many athletes and coaches wonder whether strength training produces better results when performed before or after practice. In many sports, practice is the cardiovascular portion of your workout, and combining cardio with strength training in one session can be extremely taxing to the body. Importantly, there is little scientific research to date favoring one method over the other, but let’s discuss a particular theory that may shed light on this question.
If your primary goal is to build strength, it can be argued that you should complete your strength training prior to your practice. During exercise, your body releases stored energy called glycogen to supply fuel to working muscle fibers. Whichever form of exercise you complete first will deplete those glycogen stores as your body uses its preferred form of energy right away, leaving the second portion of your workout with less available clean energy to burn. It is important to refuel between these parts of your workout with part of a bar or energy drink to avoid low energy levels. To focus on building strength, complete strength training first when your muscles are most able lift weights.
Secondly, cardiovascular training can make your blood more acidic. As you exercise, the body makes lactic acid, which is helpful in replenishing energy fuel sources so you can continue to exercise. However, an excess of hydrogen ions builds up even as your body attempts to buffer them, leading to an acidic environment. This leads to muscle fatigue. Cardio before strength can reduce your ability to maximally contract your muscles.
Injury prevention is important to consider when deciding when to strength train. You may have better technique on strength exercises when your muscles are most fresh. There are a number of stabilizing muscles that assist with any particular movement. If you complete your cardio first, these muscles may become fatigued, meaning your body may not effectively recruit them to support each strength exercise and you may put yourself at risk of injury due to improper form.
With these considerations in mind, strength training before practice may help you develop the strength you are looking for in a safe and effective manner. Regardless of how your training is organized, always remember to stay hydrated and re-fuel with a carbohydrate source in between your sessions to best maintain your energy levels for an all around solid practice!
Whether you strength train before or after your practice, discover how to use progressions to optimize your weight room sessions.