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Book Review: Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?

a must-read, for beginners and advanced.

Just finished reading this book, and I must say, it’s probably the best book I have ever read on exercise. Period.

Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise was written by Alex Hutchinson, an exercise science journalist who blogs regularly at ‘Sweat Science‘, now a featured column in runners world magazine. You can tell he’s a runner when you read. However, he covers all types of exercise and the book is useful for anyone.

Despite discussing tons of scientific research (all referenced in the back of the book, to my delight), the book is very easy to read.

This is a fantastic reference for anyone, from the beginning gym-goer to advanced athletes.

How can a book be good for both extremes? Read my review:


Great for beginners and advanced:

How can a book be written that way?

By updating us on the fundamentals (and this is what I strive for on my site too):

It challenges many of the basic assumptions on the science of exercise. It answers many of those fundamental questions that are usually answered by broscience (pseudo-science from bros at the gym). In fact, the book is like an anti-broscience bible.

It is written in the form of questions, very basic ones that people ask all the time like the title: “What should I do first? Cardio or Weights?”. Some other good ones were: “Should I exercise when I’m sick?”, “Should I have sex the night before a competition?”, “Will drinking coffee help or hinder my performance?”.

Each question is answered clearly while referencing up-to-date scientific research. Alex has done an incredible job making current exercise science easy to understand. It’s a great starting point for someone who want’s to approach fitness right. It’s also a wonderful resource for seasoned athletes with burning questions. Reading this book will provide you with the tools to call bulls**t on the many unsubstantiated claims in the fitness industry.

I’ll surely be referencing this book while I write about the basics of exercise on this blog.

Why did I like this book so much?

It probably has a lot to do with where I am in my life right now. I already know most of the basic science from my education, and now I spend most of my time looking up research to see what actually works (and just as important, what doesn’t) so I can translate it to others. I am often surprised by what I find (like how controversial stretching is).

This book was like a big refresher course on current exercise science. After reading it, I felt like I just downloaded and installed a big update of exercise science 2.0 in my brain.


barely… but I’ll pick at one thing.

The only thing I didn’t quite like:

It was very clear by the questions asked and how they were answered that Alex is a lover of running. Therefore, I felt there was some bias in the way a few answers were written.

Particularly, I see it in the question: “Will running ruin my knees?”. Three studies are presented showing that running hasn’t been proven to cause knee arthritis. In fact, runners typically have better knees as they age than non-runners. The author (not the researchers) made the comment that perhaps running protects your knees.

But in the question before: “What’s the cumulative effect of all the exercise I’ve done over the years?”, he presents research showing us it’s actually getting injuries to the knee that’s associated with developing knee arthritis as you age. Not playing sports or exercise itself.

Yet running has a very high rate of injury even relative to other high impact sports. According to the data in a recent 2011 study 1: “approximately 74% of runners experience a moderate or severe injury each year”. 74%! Moderate or severe! If injuries can lead to arthritis, then it looks like running could be risky after all.

So in “Will running ruin my knees?”, clearly the case is made that exercise and keeping a healthy body weight protects your knees, but proposing that running protects the knees was a bit of a reach.

However, the point he made is still true: the ‘pros’ of running seem to outweigh the ‘cons’ when it comes to knee health. So don’t let “it’s hard on the knees” be an excuse.

That’s it, that’s the only thing that bothered me.

Everyone has biases. Myself: I love dancing, I believe it’s not given the credit it deserves for our physical, mental, social, and cultural health, and I will defend it to the death. Still, I will acknowledge when there seems to be risks associated with my beloved activity. I mean, come on. I spin on my head. I’m not going to pretend that’s good for my neck.



Brilliantly written book, helpful for any level of experience.

Answers many fundamental questions about exercise, athletics, and nutrition. Easy to read despite being very scientific.

At times it seems written mainly for runners. However, it’s useful for anyone interested in exercise regardless of what they like to do.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to brush up on current exercise science. Must-read for professionals and amateurs alike.

Order it on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.


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    2 Responses to Book Review: Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?

    1. I agree with everything you say, great book. Almost made me want to go running. And I agree that there are glimmers of a pro running bias there! But I think he admits as much from time to time.

      • Tony Ingram says:

        Yeah he doesn’t hide it. He definitely has a ton of integrity. And if that’s the only thing I can pick at, it only illustrates how great the book really is.
        The book almost made me want to run too, but then I just danced instead… :D

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