Concurrent training refers to combining two or more different types of exercise into a single exercise session. For example, including both cardiorespiratory fitness training and resistance training in the same exercise session would be considered concurrent training. In fact, combining cardiorespiratory fitness training and resistance training into a single session is the most common form of concurrent training. Concurrent training can also include combinations of other types of exercise, including neuromotor fitness training and flexibility training.
The primary purpose of concurrent training is to increase the time-efficiency of exercise training. Lack of time is frequently the main reason for not exercising or not exercising enough. Combining different types of exercise into the same session is an important strategy for fulfilling weekly guidelines for each type of exercise. Another purpose of concurrent training is to optimize the effectiveness of training by sequencing different types of exercise in the correct order.
In concurrent training, aerobic activity to improve and maintain cardiorespiratory fitness should always come first in the exercise session. The benefits accrued from engaging in regular aerobic exercise far exceed those received from other types of training. Research has shown that there is a clear dose-response relationship between volume of aerobic exercise and multiple health outcomes, including risk of heart disease and allcause mortality, obesity, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, and perhaps most importantly, cardiorespiratory fitness. The energy expenditure from aerobic activity is also superior to other types of training (e.g., resistance training or yoga). For individuals primarily interested in weight loss, maximizing the energy expenditure of the training program by first fulfilling aerobic activity recommendations should be a priority.
Cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, flexibility, and neuromotor fitness are each critically important for the overall health, functional capacity, and quality of life of all American adults. Cardiorespiratory fitness is arguably the most important goal of an exercise program as low cardiorespiratory fitness may contribute to premature mortality and an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, decreased cardiorespiratory fitness contributes to a reduction in physiological functional capacity and eventually can result in loss of independence. Aerobic activity is best suited for modifying cardiorespiratory fitness. Aging is associated with a reduction in skeletal muscle mass, which in turn contributes to decreased muscle strength and a decline in functional capacity. Undeterred, the process can ultimately result in balance impairments, mobility problems, and lack of independence for the older adult. Furthermore, decreased skeletal muscle mass plays a facilitating role in the development of glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes. For these reasons, resistance training exercise is recommended for all adults, especially older adults, to reduce the rate of skeletal muscle loss associated with aging.
Understanding the recommended guidelines for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, flexibility, and neuromotor fitness is paramount in the preparation of a successful concurrent training program. Current guidelines for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness call for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity 5 days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity 3 days a week, or a combination of both. Recommendations for developing and maintaining musculoskeletal fitness include completion of resistance training exercises two to three days per week. Recommendations for developing and maintaining flexibility fitness include performance of stretching exercises two to three days per week. Balance, agility, coordination, and gait exercises performed two to three days per week are recommended to develop and maintain neuromotor fitness. In order to fulfill the minimum frequency requirements of each component of fitness, concurrent training is required; exercise and fitness enthusiasts need to perform at least two (or more) activities the same day; and most likely within the same exercise session.
According to research completed over the past decade, when concurrent training is prescribed, it is strongly advisable for flexibility training exercises to be performed at the conclusion of the exercise session. Collectively, evidence points to pre-exercise static stretching contributing to decreased muscle strength, muscle endurance, slower reaction time, and impaired balance performance. Exercise and fitness professionals should be mindful of these findings when designing concurrent training sessions; the order of exercise should be such that flexibility exercise follow the cardiorespiratory, neuromotor, and resistance training components.
In concurrent training, one the premier benefits of combining both cardiorespiratory fitness training and resistance training into the same exercise session is high caloric expenditure. The appropriate order of exercise, when combining the two types, is to first target cardiorespiratory fitness exercises followed by resistance exercises.
There are two distinct advantages to this approach found in concurrent training results. First, resistance training prior to aerobic exercise has been reported to impair muscle metabolism and contraction, which can contribute to premature fatigue. Conversely, resistance exercise following cardiorespiratory fitness training is not as limiting. Second, and perhaps most importantly, cardiorespiratory fitness exercises preceding resistance exercise will maximize the energy expenditure of the training session; this is true for both during the exercise session itself and afterwards. The increased caloric expenditure following the cessation of exercise training is known as excess postexercise oxygen consumption (or EPOC).
It is important to note that cardiorespiratory fitness training prior to resistance training will not compromise muscular strength or muscular endurance development; this is a common misconception not supported by research findings. There are significant benefits to sequencing cardiorespiratory fitness training prior to resistance training. Moreover, research has demonstrated that concurrent training, with cardiorespiratory fitness exercise followed by resistance training exercise, yields significant improvements in muscular strength and positively modifies body composition.
See also Cardiovascular system .
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Lance C. Dalleck, BA, MS, PhD