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Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise Paperback – May 24, 2011

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Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise + The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1 edition (May 24, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006200753X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062007537
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Authoritative and easy to use. . . . This book answers all the big questions.” (Amby Burfoot, Runner’s World)

“Factual, informative and empowering....a refreshing perspective on fitness and well-being.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Once in a while in the crowded fitness & health genre a book comes out that stands out from rest...[I]f there’s only one fitness book you ever buy this should be the one.” (BC Living)

From the Back Cover

There's plenty of conventional wisdom on health and fitness—but how much of it is scientifically sound? The truth is: less than you'd think.

In Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?, physicist and award-winning journalist Alex Hutchinson tackles dozens of commonly held beliefs and looks at just what research science has—and has not—proven to be true:

Should I exercise when I'm sick? • Do I get the same workout from the elliptical machine that I get from running? • What role does my brain play in fatigue? • Will running ruin my knees? • To lose weight, is it better to eat less or exercise more? • How should I adapt my workout routine as I get older? • Does it matter what I'm thinking about when I train? • Will drinking coffee help or hinder my performance? • Should I have sex the night before a competition?

This myth-busting book covers the full spectrum of exercise science and offers the latest in research from around the globe, as well as helpful diagrams and plenty of practical tips on using proven science to improve fitness, reach weight loss goals, and achieve better competition results.

More About the Author

Alex Hutchinson is a columnist for Runner's World, and writes the magazine's popular Sweat Science blog on the latest training and fitness research. He also contributes regularly to magazines such as Popular Mechanics, Outside and Men's Journal, and his award-winning travel writing appears in the New York Times. Hutchinson holds a Master's in Journalism from Columbia and a Ph.D. in Physics from Cambridge, and did his post-doctoral research with the U.S. National Security Agency. Between 1997 and 2008, he represented Canada at world championships and other international competitions as a distance runner.

Customer Reviews

I read this book in a day as it's very well written and easy to read.
Brad Feilmeier
If you are an athlete, exercise addict, sports coach or personal trainer, this book will be of much more interest.
I read Alex's b;logs and when I saw this book out decided pretty much on a whim to purchase it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Justin T on June 3, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whether you exercise to stay healthy or are a serious athlete in training, this book is a must-have reference book. It's the best book I've ever seen in answering the "practical" fitness questions you've ever wondered about in deciding how to exercise. If you're going to be spending hundreds or even thousands of hours in training, this book will help make sure you're not wasting it. It's organized in a practical way, and you can easily jump from question to question without needing to read each page that came before it. This makes it a good reference to come back to as you continue to change your workout routines over time.

While the book consults with sports doctors, physiologists and other experts, what's unique about it is that the author has looked for scientific studies which can help prove or disprove the conventional wisdom you hear in the gym. Though the author was a former competitive athlete, he leans more heavily on his PhD background to help you understand what scientific studies have shown about the best way to exercise. This helps you to cut through the marketing hype and locker room folklore so you can decide how best to exercise for what you want to accomplish. And, where the science isn't conclusive, he tells you that, which I like. I've already found two or three improvements in how I would exercise.

So what does the book cover? Well, just about every exercise question I've ever wondered about and a few dozen more. And there are as many topics for the serious athlete as there are for the casual exerciser so this would make a good reference for both. Good ones that come up for people often:

- Is running on a treadmill better or worse than running outside?
- Do I need strength training if I just want to be lean and fit?
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 28, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Whether you're new to the world of health and fitness or a veteran, you know how hard it is to sort the true, workable principles from the junk and "broscience" ("Bro, doing dumbbell presses on the exercise ball builds an awesome chest!").

Popular workout magazines are FULL of false, misleading advice, and their primary mission is to SELL PRODUCTS for the supplement companies that own them (yup)--not teach you sound, scientific principles of getting bigger, leaner, and stronger. The Internet forums are even worse, and very often, trainers don't have a clue what they're doing or talking about.

With so much confusion abound, what are you to do?

There's where books like Cardio or Weights come in. The author was a competitive athlete with a PhD in physics, and he uses logical, fact-based reasoning to address many common questions and issues that athletes face. Things such as...

How effective is High Intensity Interval Training, really? Is the hype justified?

Can exercise increase risk of a heart attack?

How much is "enough" exercise?

How long does it take before I'll start seeing results from weight lifting?

What times are the day are best for training?

And more...

Mr. Hutchinson calls in the wisdom of many recognized, accredited experts in training, medicine, and physiology, and shares a wealth of scientific studies to help shed light on the various issues addressed in the book. In some cases, the findings are absolutely clear. In others, however, scientists aren't sure exactly why certain phenomena occur, and the author doesn't try to pretend he knows all the answers.

This is a quick read and all the information is presented in a very accessible way for us laymen.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By D&D TOP 100 REVIEWER on September 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
I just want to learn about the proven best ways to get and keep basic fitness (whatever that means) with minimum effort and maximum pleasure; this book wasn't enough (but it never claimed to be).

Even though it is an excellent compilation of the results of hundreds of studies, for my purposes this book was less useful than say "The First 20 Minutes" ("New Rules of Lifting for Life" can be helpful too). Apart from a good chapter on weight management (did you know that fat people who are physically fit are half as likely to die as thin ones who don't exercise? that weight loss does indeed slow your metabolism? and that exercise slows down your cellular aging process?) and another good one on nutrition and hydration (such as no difference in physiology or results between vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets, antioxidants like vits C&E may block some of the health effects of exercise, and probiotics can ward off respiratory infections and digestive problems), only about a third of the book was helpful to someone like me.

The helpful basic bits include information on HIT (interval/varied intensity training), exercise shoes, evidence that fatigue is regulated by subconscious processes in the brain, the conventional wisdom that maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age is WRONG (better is 208 minus 0.7 times your age but even that is a rough average and wrong for a third of us).

With a personal trainer you can improve strength by 16 per cent versus just 10 per cent for light supervision. No matter how many weights you use or how many reps you do the most important factor in building muscles is reaching muscle failure by the final repetition. Yoga is at least as good as mild exercise for strength and flexibility but insufficient as an aerobic workout.
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