Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?

A question-and-answer resource on fitness for the rest of us

Looking for an easy-to-read, fact-filled book that will answer many of the most common questions about fitness? Alex Hutchinson, Ph.D., a journalist and physicist, wrote such a book with Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?

The subtitle of this 317-page resource is “Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise,” and it delivers on its promise. It’s organized into chapters representing the major categories of questions asked and answered.

Chapter 1 – Getting Started  

Chapter 2 – Fitness Gear  

Chapter 3 – The Physiology of Exercise  

Chapter 4 – Aerobic Exercise 

Chapter 5 – Strength and Power  

Chapter 6 – Flexibility and Core Strength  

Chapter 7 – Injuries and Recovery  

Chapter 8 – Exercise and Aging  

Chapter 9 – Weight Management 

Chapter 10 – Nutrition and Hydration  

Chapter 11 – Mind and Body  

Chapter 12 – The Competitive Edge  


The questions answered vary from vague (“Will running ruin my knees?) to specific (“Will drinking coffee help or hinder my performance?”) to bizarre (“Does walking with poles give me a better workout?”). Here are a few more:

  • Should I avoid exercising outside when air pollution is high? 
  • Is running on a treadmill better or worse than running outside? 
  • Do I really need specialized shoes for walking, running, tennis, basketball, and so on? 
  • How can I avoid muscle cramps?
  • Why do I get sore a day or two after hard exercise?
  • How do I determine my maximum heart rate?
  • Free weights or machines: what’s the difference, and which should I use? 
  • Do I need extra protein to build muscle?
  • Could stretching before exercise make me slower and weaker? 
  • Which should I do first:cardio or weights?  (Answer in Chapter 1)
  • How should I warm up before exercise?
  • Will stretching after exercise help me avoid next-day soreness? 
  • Will a post-exercise ice bath help me recover more quickly? 
  • Will massage help me avoid soreness and recover more quickly from workouts? 
  • How can I reduce my risk of stress fractures?
  • Will vitamin D make me a better athlete?
  • What are the effects of exercise on the brain?

If you’re in a hurry, Hutchinson provides a “Cheat Sheet” at the end of each chapter summarizing the key ideas.

To be clear, Hutchinson doesn’t provide any workouts or diets to help you achieve your goals. What he does do is give straightforward, non-technical answers and provide 400 references from peer-reviewed journals if you want more details on each answer.

Most of the questions would be those asked by the general population. The only downside of the book is that Iron Game athletes reading the “Strength and Power” chapter will probably ask, “Bro – do you even lift?” For example, Hutchinson says the best way to develop “explosive power” is to perform 3 x 3-6 reps at 60 percent of your 1-repetition maximum. So, light weights, no aches! (FYI: Hutchinson was a long-distance runner for the Canadian National Team.)

The gold standard for readable resources on strength and fitness myths is Facts and Fallacies of Fitness by Mel Siff, Ph.D. However, if you’re new to working out and want an overall perspective on how to improve the quality of your life through exercise, Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? by Alex Hutchinson is a good start. (TSS)

[Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? by Alex Hutchinson is available in Kindle, paperback, and audiobook formats through]

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