Should You Do Cardio Before Weight Training or After?

Learn the best time to do your cardio workout within your routine. There are many options and you should choose the one that best helps you with your objectives.
Should You Do Cardio Before Weight Training or After?

Last update: 30 December, 2018

Many people who go to the gym do so to increase their muscle mass. What’s more, they might forget about cardio completely. There are even people out there, in fact, who avoid it altogether! They say that cardio is counterproductive to their muscle-building goals. Nothing could be further from the truth!

If you’re not convinced that cardio can be a great complement to your weight training, just read this article. We’ll tell you whether you should do cardio before weight training or after, depending on your fitness goals.

Cardio before weight training or after?

When you want bigger biceps or triceps, it’s normal to forget about the importance of other exercises. Cardiovascular exercises may be on your list of ignored exercises. Some people believe these reduce the effects of weight training and don’t help to tone the muscles.

Despite these beliefs, cardio actually burns fat, “leaving” muscle. That’ll cause your muscles to become more visible.

Once people start to understand that, the first question that may pop into their heads is: “should I do cardio before weight training or after?” We might say that there’s no single correct response to this query. That’s because it all depends on your personal objectives.

Doing cardio before weight training helps you burn fat.

Cardio before weight training

If you choose this option, that would be because your goal is to increase your endurance, burn fat, and just gain a little muscle mass while you’re at it. In other words, muscle building is just a complement to improve your performance and become stronger.

It can also be a good choice when you’re used to training outside (in the park, for example) and it rains for a week straight. In that case, doing cardio before weight training is a good choice.

Why do we say this? It’s because the important thing is to maintain the pace of training and conserve your “peak energy state” for this part of your workout. Weights are an essential complement to prevent your muscles from looking too “soft”.

It might also be a good option for people who just want to gain a little muscle mass on the arms and legs.

In short, if your main objective isn’t to build your muscles, cardio should come first. After that, you should go through your weight-training routine and complete it with a good stretching session.

Doing cardio before weight training is good for endurance.

Cardio after weight training

The second option is to leave the cardio for the end of your session (before the stretching part). This is a good choice for people who mainly want to develop muscle mass or definition.

This order isn’t some random choice. It’s actually based on scientific and biological principles.

When you lift weights, the muscles stores a substance called glycogen. This substance is in charge of giving you more energy and strength. Thanks to glycogen, you can go through your routine and lift even more weight each time.

Nevertheless, the muscles start to “lose” some glycogen as the session continues. As your objective is to gain muscle, you shouldn’t use all your fuel right before lifting weights.

If you do your cardio after weight training, however, you can eliminate some of the fat stored in your body without losing muscle.

That’s because at that point the body is low in glycogen, which means it has no other choice but to use its secondary form of fuel: fat. That’s perfect for promoting your weight training, too, because the less body fat you have, the more efficient your weight training exercises will be.

The best thing to do, then, is to go through a weight training session of 45 minutes to 1 hour long. After that, you should perform 15 to 20 minutes of cardio. Don’t forget the 5 minutes of stretching. In the first part of this workout, you’ll use up your glycogen (strength and endurance).

In the second, you’ll burn some fat. The last part is there to help you avoid stiffness or pain that the accumulation of lactic acid could produce in your muscles.

Whether you do cardio before weight training or after, you should always stretch.

If your goal is to lose weight and tone your legs, glutes, or arms, you should start by weight training (even if it’s only 20 – 30 minutes). You can then begin on the cardio (40 minutes to 1 hour).

That way, you’ll burn your stored fat and tone your muscles at the same time.

For most people, the best order to follow is to weight train first and then perform cardiovascular exercises.

Even though you might not believe it, you’ll still have enough energy for a few more minutes of cardio. This is even true for intense cardio. The best part is that you don’t have to tell your body what type of fuel it needs to use. It’ll take what it believes is necessary to meet your needs in the specific situation.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.