Last Updated on by Eat Better Move More

What Does Cardio Before Leg Day Do?

In attaining fitness, it is important to be as well-rounded and balanced as possible. This balance can be derived from all sorts of exercise, not focusing on one workout routine for weeks and not focusing on just one specific muscle group every time.

Everyday, or at least every workout session, there should be a different muscle group you focus on. And sometimes, you have to switch between aerobics (cardio) and anaerobics exercises. You may do cardio today, and do some weights on your next workout.

leg day

However, is it right to do cardio before leg day?

Why Switch Between Cardio and Weights?

First things first, why is there a need to switch between doing cardio and anaerobics exercises in the first place? Why can’t those who want to bulk up just focus on weights? And why can’t those who want to “lose weight” just do cardio?

Well, it all comes down to fitness and overall health. You may be physically strong and intimidating looking, but if you have weak lungs and heart, you’re still ultimately weak.

You may be slim and have high endurance. Your heart and lungs may be in peak shape. But if your other muscles, skeletal muscles namely, are ignored, you’re also still fit nor healthy.

Balance is required in health and fitness. As Arnold Schwarzenegger puts it, “Your heart is the strongest muscle of all.” That’s coming from the Austrian Oak himself, the man known best for his muscle-bound physique.

Without cardio, you’re more vulnerable to heart diseases like stroke or heart failure. You’re also at a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even cancer.

Without anaerobic exercises, like weightlifting, you’re missing out on the following benefits:

  • Increases power
  • Better bone strength and density (decreases risks of osteoporosis)
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Improved joint protection
  • Fights depression
  • Better energy levels

See why it’s important to do both cardio and aerobic exercises? Fitness and health is all about taking care of the entire body.

Bodybuilders and strength trainers usually use a split routine. They focus on one muscle group each workout session. And normally, leg day is the cruelest of these sessions.

However, there are certain situations or sequences of workouts that may prove detrimental to your body. For example, what does running, a famous cardio workout, before your leg day do to your legs?

Leg Day

Cardio Before Leg Day

In the muscles, there’s a substance used as fuel called glycogen. It’s derived from glucose and is mainly used for energy purposes. It can also be found in body fat.

The thing about running and lifting weights using the legs is that they both use glycogen in the leg muscles. Running and leg day done back to back may overwork your leg muscles to a fault.

There are a lot of muscle groups in the legs – quad muscles, hamstrings, and calves –  doing either a leg workout or cardio can deplete your glycogen muscles pretty quickly.

What does this to your legs or to your body in general?

Worse Immunity

When your muscles are overworked or overtrained, your body makes the effort to rejuvenate them – at the expense of your immunity.

Because your body is focused on restoring your body back to its peak performance, it ignores incoming threats, like diseases. If your body’s resources are focused on recovering from your latest workout, then it can’t prevent sickness.

Lower Energy Levels

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to sluggishness. But one of the least recognized is overtraining your body. If you don’t give your body enough time to rest in between workouts, you’ll feel its effects on your energy levels.

Working your legs via running and through weights in consecutive days will drain its glycogen, its fuel. That may not do much damage if done once or twice. But making a habit out of it will surely affect you negatively.

Increase in Injuries

Not giving your muscles enough time to recuperate between workouts piles up the strains and damages naturally developed when training. This is what makes your muscles tired and sore.

Over time, these little wear and tear in your muscles will become a much bigger deal.

Cardio After Leg Day

Again, it is important to point out that doing two workouts on the legs consecutively drains the glycogen out of them. But if you have to do it, it’s better to do what you prioritize more first.

If you prioritize cardio, do that ahead of leg workouts, and vice versa. Just make sure that when you do the second workout, do it less intense than normal.

Your glycogen levels already dipped in the first activity. Don’t push your body to the breaking point and harm it by overtraining.

However, there are cardio exercises that do not put much strain on your legs. They are called low-impact cardio exercises.

Low-impact cardio exercises don’t put too much biomechanical stress on the body because they don’t involve landing, jumping, or running. At the same time, they still put a strain on the body’s cardiorespiratory system. They still work your heart and lungs.

These exercises include the following:

  • Swimming
  • Elliptical 
  • Long-distance cycling (still works the legs but with less impact)

The Final Word

It is not suggested to overwork your muscles. So avoiding running or other cardio exercises that involve too many leg muscles before leg day is a good idea.

However, you can still do cardio before or after a strenuous leg workout if the cardio doesn’t strain your legs too much. As was repeatedly mentioned above, balance is an important aspect of health and fitness. And this balance involves moderation.

You don’t want to concentrate on or overwork just one part of your body. For the best effect, give your body time to rest and improve for your next workout session!

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