Which Should You Do First: Cardio or Weights?

You’ve started a new fitness program, and this new program calls for both cardio and weight training. You don’t want to spend every day at the gym, so you decide to stack some of the weight and cardio workouts on the same days. If you are going to perform both in the same workout then which should you do first, weights or cardio?

There are arguments on both sides.

Some say do the cardio first to get it out of the way and for increased blood flow, and doing it after weights will make it harder and more likely that you will skip it altogether.

Others say doing cardio before weights will negatively affect how much weight you can lift, so always do weights first. With all of the conflicting advice you might get, let’s clear things up and look at what the research says. (SPOILER: the answer depends on your goals).

If your primary goal is fat loss:

Interval cardio and strength training both significantly raise levels of EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption)—the amount of time it takes your body to return to its resting state. The longer your body takes to reach its natural resting state, the more calories you are presumed to burn.treadmill 

Several studies show no difference in the elevated level of EPOC after mixing the order of the workout.1, 2, 3

If your goal is fat loss, it doesn’t matter in what order you do cardio or weights. Consistency is the key. If saving cardio for after your strength workouts makes it less likely that you will complete it, then do it first.

However, if you struggle to get to the gym in the first place, and you prefer one over the other (cardio/weights), then I’d recommend you start with the one you enjoy the most to increase the excitement of beginning your workouts.

If your primary goal is strength/hypertrophy:

The research suggests that performing high-intensity cardio before strength training can have negative effects on overall strength.4, 5 Some research has shown that endurance exercise performed prior to strength training diminished protein synthesis (the process of building new muscle tissue).womanlifting

Additionally, high-intensity cardio can negatively impact a strength workout by depleting glycogen reserves (stored energy in the muscles), leaving less energy available for the strength workout.6 If maximal strength goals are your focus, then perform the strength workouts before cardio.

The answer to the question of whether to do cardio or weights first during your workout will depend largely on what your main objectives are. As previously stated, if fat loss is your primary goal then consistency is a more important factor then the specific order in which these forms of exercise are completed. However, if strength and hypertrophy are your main goals, then it is more beneficial to do aerobic exercise in isolation from your strength workouts. If that is not possible, then performing cardio after your strength workouts will be most beneficial.

Have a specific question about your program? Hit me with a message!