If you had to guess, which two terms would you say most lifters hate?
Cardio and leg day, right?
But even if most people hate both, we can’t deny their importance. Both cardio and leg training are essential for our overall fitness results, health, and proportional development. The question is, however, can we combine them? In other words, can we do cardio after training legs?
If possible, you should not do cardio on leg day. You should definitely not do cardio before training legs on the same day. Doing cardio before training legs will prevent you from getting the most out of your leg workout.
leg day can be tough, and most people prefer to train their legs and call it a day. Cardio? Maybe some other time.
But if you’re interested in doing some cardio after training legs, here is what you need to know:
1) Combining cardio and strength training is possible, but it’s best to either do them on separate days or space them out by at least six hours. Meaning, you should either do cardio on your rest days or perhaps do it in the morning and then weight train in the evening.
This is all about the interference effect, and the possible adverse impact cardio can have on your strength training adaptations (1).
2) If your legs feel particularly fatigued, it might be better to go home and allow them to recover, rather than pile even more stress through cardio.
3) It also depends on the magnitude of your leg workouts. For example, if you tend to split your leg training volume into two workouts, your legs won’t get as fatigued in any given session. That way, you’ll be able to do some cardio after leg day without overly-fatiguing your leg muscles.
But, on the other hand, if you cram all of your leg training volume in a single workout and do exercises for your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, you’ll find yourself much more fatigued by the end, and cardio might not be a good idea then.
So, to give you the TL;DR here:
Unless you have some incredibly demanding leg workouts, you can probably get away with doing some cardio afterward. In fact, most experts out there advise us to split our weekly training volume into multiple smaller sessions to avoid overworking our muscles in any given workout (2).
So, it’s up to you to use your best judgment. With that said, let’s take a look at some other important things to keep in mind.
Suggestion: If cardio on leg day is your only option, I would supplement with HMB. HMB has been shown to reduce muscle protein breakdown by half. This, theoretically, will help you to hold on to your gains while burning off the fat. I buy nutricost brand on Amazon and use 5g per day. Click this link if you want to check it out.
Focus On Leg Training First
The most important thing you need to keep in mind is that you should focus on the things you want to improve first, and then work on secondary matters.
For example, if your primary goals are to strengthen and develop your legs, then it would make sense to put your focus on training them with weights. Start the workout with the leg exercises and focus on making progress there. Then, if you have some energy left, you can do other things like conditioning work.
Also, don’t ‘save up’ energy for the cardio work later. Do your leg workout as intended and only do cardio if you feel up for it.
Beware of Technique Breakdown From Tired Legs
Research and plenty of anecdotal evidence suggest that once a muscle becomes fatigued, the body starts looking for more efficient ways to perform various movements.
Meaning, once your legs become tired, the risk of your technique breaking down becomes greater.
For example, even if you want to do some cardio after leg day, it might not be the best idea to hop on the treadmill or Stairmaster as both of these require your legs to do the bulk of the work.
Instead, you may choose an option that either doesn’t require your legs to work as hard or one where technique breakdown won’t cause an issue.For example, you can do some battle rope where your legs aren’t as involved, or you can cycle on a stationary bike where even if your legs are tired, the risk of technique breakdown is slim to none.
If You Can, Do Cardio On Another Day
A well-structured leg workout will deliver much greater benefits than an extra cardio session.
If your schedule is full and you have no other choice, then go ahead and do some cardio after leg day. But, if there is a way to space out your cardio and weight sessions, do so.
For example, you can do cardio sessions on your rest days. That way, cardio’s interference on your weight training will be minimal, and you’ll be able to do all of your workouts in a fresh and recovered state (1).
Another option is to do cardio and weight training on the same day but space them out by at least six hours. For example, you can do your cardio in the morning and then hit the gym for your weight training in the evening.
So, can you do cardio on leg day? Absolutely. If you don’t have another option, go ahead.
Just be aware that your technique might suffer and try to go for less demanding options that don’t involve your legs as much.
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