Should you do cardio before weights?

A Fit Mess
June 23, 2016

Hey there. Hope you all had a good day yesterday.


I thought I’d address a question related to cardiovascular and strength training that I’ve been asked a few times:


Should you do cardio before or after strength training/lifting?


This is a question that I have often considered myself and it’s not as straightforward as you might think. It really depends on several factors, including: what your strength and fitness goals are and what type of training you are doing.


Ideally, you should aim to do most of your strength training and cardio sessions on different days in order to give each workout as much effort as possible and to ensure that you have given your body adequate time to recover between sessions. However, if that’s not possible, then combining aerobic exercise and resistance work in the same workout, known as concurrent training, can be a very time-efficient way to train. And the sequence of your training does make a difference.


Most fitness experts agree that it’s better to do cardio after resistance training regardless of what your overall goal(s) may be.


Here’s why you should save cardio for the end of the session:


  1. If you start your workout in the weight room, you will focus more energy on the resistance portion. This translates into faster strength results. I wish I could I shout this from the rooftops: Ladies, strength training is the only way you will achieve a lean and toned look! Pick up a weight!
  2. Research shows that you will lose more fat and get stronger and faster if you do weight training first. The reason is that weight training will require the body to preferentially burn fat for fuel (rather than carbs).
  3. Performing weight training first has been shown to elevate metabolism more during the 24-hour recover period than if you start with cardio.
  4. Your glycogen stores (what your body uses for energy) aren’t depleted quite as much from strength training as they are with conditioning work. This means you will still have enough in your tank to complete some cardio at the end.


In summary, performing cardio at the end of your workout will result in a much higher percentage of fat being burned, an increase in your post-workout metabolism, and greater strength and performance gains. In other words: more bang for your buck.


What type of conditioning should you do after resistance training?


Hands down, short and fast interval training is the best way to burn fat and maintain lean muscle mass. For example, after your strength portion try running sprint intervals (30 seconds on / 30 seconds off) for 25-30 minutes. Crank up the speed on a treadmill and go as hard as possible (on) and then rest in between (off). Or go for windgates on the stationary bike. You could also try a rower and go all out for 20 seconds (row as fast as you can) and then easy for 40 seconds of active recovery. Your training should be no longer than 20 – 30 minutes in order to keep your cortisol levels in check and to prevent your body from tapping into your muscles for fuel.


All this being said, I personally think it’s important to consider what you are capable of doing and what is a realistic workout for you. For example, sometimes I’ll do my conditioning first because I just want to get it out of the way and I’ll be less likely to just skip it altogether. If your preference is to start with it first or mix it throughout the workout – have at it. It’s really about understanding what works for YOU and what you need to do in order to achieve your goals.




What are your favorite interval workouts? Link to comment is found at the top of the post.


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