Fitness, Science

The Optimal Order of Exercise – And How it Applies to Soccer

The recent issue of the American Council on Exercise (ACE) “Idea” Fitness Journal summarized a very interesting research study, done by a group of researchers at Western State Colorado University earlier this year.  The team recruited 20 adult volunteers, who participated in all possible sequences (24 in total) of cardiorespiratory, resistance, flexibility, and neuromotor exercises, to see which order of exercise would deliver optimal results.

The study demonstrated a clear and significant effect of exercise order on the acute physiological and psychological responses to an exercise session.  The most important effect of training was seen with cardiorespiratory exercise.  When it was performed first, the heart rate response equated to 56% of of heart rate reserve (or “moderate-light intensity exercise”).  Conversely, when cardiorespiratory exercise was performed last, the heart rate response was much higher, at 68% of heart rate reserve (“moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise”).

What this means in layman’s terms is that, if cardiorespiratory exercise is not performed first in an exercise session, the same “relative” intensity of the exercise (workload, speed, number of repetitions, etc..) will be much harder to complete, leading to higher exercising heart rate and more difficulty in completing the exercises.  Thus, cardiorespiratory exercise must come first in any exercise session.  Strength training is recommended to be ordered after cardiorespiratory exercise, followed by flexibility and neuromotor exercise.

These findings have implications for athletes and soccer players as well.  If the goal of any training session is to improve aerobic endurance or high intensity running ability, then the “cardiovascular” component of the training session (whether it is a running workout, or a workout with the ball) must be done at the beginning of the training session.  In general, soccer coaches and fitness coaches should have athletes complete their cardiorespiratory training immediately after the warm-up, in order to achieve optimal improvements in aerobic fitness and high intensity running ability.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

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