Concurrent Training: Best of Both Worlds

At Telos, our classes are structured around strength and conditioning using a strategic approach to programming. We start with the strength portion of the workout and follow it up with a conditioning piece, which is aimed to elevate the heart rate and use lighter weights at higher reps. This is a form of “concurrent training”– training that stimulates both energy systems in order to work both  strength and cardio effects. 

When one is focused on strength training, they are training in the phosphagen (Adenosine Triphosphate & phosphocreatine) energy system, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum of cardio work. Cardio ranges from glycolytic to aerobic energy systems, depending on the intensity and duration. Therefore, you can imagine that there is an “interference” effect if you train both systems. If you ever met a powerlifter, or athlete focused on strength training only, they do not do much-if any- cardio because it poses a threat to their strength and muscle mass. And runners have the opposite view, they do not want to add unnecessary muscle mass that may slow them down in their sport. 

So let’s look at the questions many people ask:

  • Doesn’t training both systems interfere with each other? 

  • Should I do cardio before or after strength training?

Question 1: Doesn’t training both systems interfere with one another?

  • Yes, the interference effect is true. It has been researched by several individuals, and the general results were:

    • The subjects from the study that trained concurrently experienced less increase in strength than the subjects that trained strength only.

    • Concurrent training resulted in greater losses in body fat than strength training only.

    • VO2max improved by equal amounts in subjects performing endurance training alone when compared to subjects performing concurrent endurance and strength training.

      • Strength training can have positive effects of VO2max and does not negatively affect endurance. 

  •  Overall, the general consensus is: aerobic training can negatively interfere with strength training BUT strength training doesn’t have a negative effect on aerobic training/VO2 max. 

    • If you are only dedicated to your strength numbers, then aerobic training will not serve great use (however it should be included to some extent for general health and fitness).

    • If you are dedicated to just endurance training, you can benefit from adding strength training to your regimen.

    • If you are looking for overall performance (strength and endurance), concurrent training will be your best bet.

Question 2: Should I do cardio before or after strength training?

  • That depends– are you training for strength improvements or endurance improvements? If you are a runner who wants to increase VO2 max, then the goal should be to prioritize running. If you want to increase your strength numbers, then the priority is strength training. 

  • The optimal method of utilizing concurrent training would be to train strength first, and then roll into the aerobic/conditioning piece of the workout. As mentioned above through the studies, strength training does not limit aerobic improvements; however, endurance work does limit strength capacity. In that case, you can do strength training without worrying if your conditioning/aerobic/endurance work will be negatively impacted.