Cardio: before or after weights?

If you're used to weight training and doing cardio, but you're not sure when's the best time to do each exercise, we'll explain more in this post. Keep on reading!
Cardio: before or after weights?

Last update: 09 December, 2018

Cardio is one of the best exercises to pair with your weight-training because it helps you reduce fat and define your muscles. However, a lot of people aren’t sure whether it’s better to do cardio before or after weight-training.

Cardio exercise, or aerobic exercise, is undoubtedly perfect for your fitness plan. Many people do cardio before or after their weight-training sessions. Even if your goal isn’t losing weight, you should incorporate cardio in your routine to strengthen your heart and lungs.

What happens if you do cardio before weight-training?

If you do cardio before you lift, you could burn more calories, when you’re lifting weights because you’ll start with a faster heart rate.

It will raise your internal temperature and your body’s metabolic needs. At the same time, it’ll make sure that your heart rate increases, thus, increasing the number of calories that you burn during your workout.

Cardio before weights

However, the downside is that unsurprisingly, you’ll find yourself more tired after your cardio workout and won’t have as much energy for your weight-training.

What happens when you do cardio after weight-training?

Starting off your work out with weights is a great idea because it helps you to burn fat more quickly than you would have if you started out with cardio. By reserving most of your energy to become stronger in the weight room, you’ll gain better results and more strength to work with heavier weights. Looking at it from that perspective, cardio would give you a smaller percentage of fat burn.

Unfortunately, starting with weights isn’t easy for everyone because it means tough endurance training and after, an intense cardio session. Not all gym-goers have the strength to keep going after finishing with weights.

Cardio after weights

“Set your goals high, and don’t stop until you get there.”

– Bo Jackson –

So, should you start off with cardio or weights?

To answer that question, you need to think about your objectives. From there, you need to keep a few variables in mind before deciding on how to start your workouts.

Generally speaking, you can get a good workout, as long as you have enough energy to exercise at a higher intensity, with more concentration and  efficiency. On the other hand, exercising with low energy levels tend to be inefficient and can increase the risk of injury.

Actually, if your objective is to be healthier overall, it doesn’t really matter when you lift weights. However, if you’re looking to strengthen your cardiovascular endurance, we recommend saving the weights for after your cardio to prevent muscle fatigue.

Other things to keep in mind

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula that can tell us if one way or the other is better. However, what you can do is consider our advice.

For readers who want to increase their muscle size and strength, the best way forward is to lift first while your body’s energy levels for muscle contraction (glycogen) are still high.

Cardio energy levels

If you want to burn more calories in a session, you’re probably better off performing cardio first and then lifting weights after. Don’t forget that lifting also burns calories; far often than not, it actually burns more calories per minute than endurance training exercises do.

Lastly, don’t forget that the best way to work your body is by lifting and cardio, in addition to making dietary changes and living a healthy lifestyle. Remember, if you’re following bad habits after your workout sessions, you won’t get the results that you want.

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.

  • Alves, A. R., Marta, C. C., Neiva, H. P., Izquierdo, M., & Marques, M. C. (2017). Effects of order and sequence of resistance and endurance training on body fat in elementary school-aged girls. Biology of Sport34(4), 379-384.
  • Davitt, P. M., Pellegrino, J. K., Schanzer, J. R., Tjionas, H., & Arent, S. M. (2014). The effects of a combined resistance training and endurance exercise program in inactive college female subjects: does order matter?. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research28(7), 1937-1945.
  • Doma, K., & Deakin, G. B. (2013). The effects of strength training and endurance training order on running economy and performance. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism38(6), 651-656.
  • Ho, S. S., Dhaliwal, S. S., Hills, A. P., & Pal, S. (2012). The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC public health12(1), 1-10.
  • Jones, T. W., Howatson, G., Russell, M., & French, D. N. (2017). Effects of strength and endurance exercise order on endocrine responses to concurrent training. European journal of sport science17(3), 326-334.

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