Concurrent Training: Keep Your Strength and STILL Do Cardio

cardiovascular exercise programming recovery resistance training time of day
Man. Woman. Treadmill. Cardiovascular exercise.

How to effectively program both strength and cardio workouts for maximum performance!

When designing a strength and conditioning program, or any training program where the goals include combined muscle strength and power development along with cardiovascular endurance training, the first thing to consider is how to build the program time wise. That means, how much time should be allowed between a cardiovascular training session like sprint intervals or jogging and a strength training session? Other factors include the best time of day for each type of training and including time for rest and optimal recovery.

Concurrent training, also known as combined training, is defined as doing strength training and cardiovascular training either in the same session or closely together within the same 24-hours. It is common in athletic training environments to do both, and usually necessary, and typically includes two training sessions per day.

Timing training sessions is critical because muscle performance adaptations, like strength and endurance, are competing molecular events. Concurrent training confuses muscles at the molecular level and performance decrements can occur. Decrements tend to favor muscle endurance and work against muscle strength and power and be the greatest for conditioned persons and athletes (Methenitis, 2018). In a meta-analysis of 43 studies, the effects of combined training on muscle force generation capacity (MFGC) appear to be the greatest for explosive strength versus muscle mass and absolute muscle strength (Schumann, 2022).

Mechanisms for competing molecular events are unclear; however, the type of cardiovascular training, like running versus cycling has long been suspected and historically gotten the most attention. Current research is focused on the Intensity of cardiovascular exercise (Vechin et. al., 2021) along with the duration of cardiovascular exercise (Markov, et. al., 2021) and the amount of rest (Schoenmakers et. al., 2019).

Type

The original data on combined programming for muscle strength maintenance and development suggested that cycling was the preferred type of cardiovascular endurance training to avoid confusion. Although cycling appeared to be favored early on, a recent meta-analysis of 15 studies showed that muscle interference and strength decrements were greater for cycling than for running (Markov, 2021).

Intensity

The intensity of cardiovascular training is a more important determinant of strength decrements caused by cardiovascular endurance training than type alone (Vechin, 2021 and Markov, 2021). In highly conditioned hockey players, when combined training was examined muscle strength was not adversely affected in the short term by high-intensity cardiovascular training like sprint intervals (Petre, 2018).

Duration

The duration of cardiovascular exercise is a significant factor that contributes to muscle interference and strength loss during combined training. The longer the duration of cardiovascular exercise, the greater the negative impact on muscle strength (Markov, 2021.)

Exercise Order

Data does suggest that strength exercises should be performed before cardiovascular exercise to minimize interference if they are performed in the same session (Markov, 2021).

Rest

The length of rest periods are also important training variables related to muscle confusion during combined training that causes strength decrements. Molecular mechanisms associated with muscle confusion need six hours and up to 24 hours to fully reset and avoid interference caused by combined training. The negative effects of combined training on explosive strength were greater when combined training was performed within the same session than when sessions were separated by at least 3 hours (Schumann, 2021).

It is also recommended to rest two days per week on non-consecutive days versus weeks on and weekends off to stay on a 24-hour cycle (Ashmore, 2020).

Cardiovascular Training Program for Muscle Strength Improvement (adapted form Ashmore, 2020).

Exercise Type

Day

Intensity (% of VO2 max)

Duration

Sprint – HIIT intervals

Monday

 85% VO2 max and above

20 minutes

OFF

Tuesday

OFF

OFF

Sprint – HIIT intervals

Wednesday

85% VO2 max and above

20 minutes

OFF

Thursday

OFF

OFF

Sprint – HIIT intervals

Friday

85% VO2 max and above

20 minutes

OFF

Saturday

OFF

OFF

OFF

Sunday

OFF

OFF

 

Programming Best Practices:

  • The first consideration is whether the person is a trained athlete versus untrained person.
  • Cycling seems to have less of an impact on muscle strength and power than jogging or running.
  • High-intensity sprint intervals appear to have the least impact.
  • Limit cardiovascular exercise duration to 20 minutes or less.
  • Schedule rest periods of at least 3 hours between strength cardiovascular training.
  • 6 hours to 24-hours of rest is ideal to avoid muscle confusion.
  • Schedule cardiovascular training every other day if muscle strength/power is primary performance goal.
  • If two types of exercise are done within the same session, do strength before cardiovascular.

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References:

Ashmore, Amy. 2020. Timing Resistance Training: Programming the Muscle Clock for Optimal Performance, Human Kinetics, Champaign IL.

Markov A, Chaabene H, Hauser L, Behm S, Bloch W, Puta C, Granacher U. 2021. Acute Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Muscle Strength and Power in Trained Male Individuals: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis. Sports Med. Dec 8.

Methenitis, Spyridon. 2018. A Brief Review on Combined Training: From Laboratory to the Field. Sports. 6. 127.

Petré H, Löfving P, Psilander N. 2018. The Effect of Two Different Combined Training Programs on Strength and Power Gains in Highly-Trained Individuals. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. May 14;17(2):167-173.

Schumann M, Feuerbacher JF, Sünkeler M, Freitag N, Rønnestad BR, Doma K, Lundberg TR. 2022. Compatibility of Combined Aerobic and Strength Training for Skeletal Muscle Size and Function: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. Mar;52(3):601-612.

Vechin FC, Conceição MS, Telles GD, Libardi CA, Ugrinowitsch C. 2021. Interference Phenomenon with Combined Strength and High-Intensity Interval Training-Based Aerobic Training: An Updated Type. Sports Med. Apr;51(4):599-605.

Author Biography

Amy Ashmore, Ph.D. holds a doctorate in Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a physical therapy continuing education provider located in Las Vegas, NV.

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