Which Comes First: Cardio or Weights?


When you first enter a gym, what do you gravitate toward?  The treadmills and other cardio machines, or the weights and strength training equipment?  Have you ever wondered if you should be doing one before the other?

First, let me say that both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training are very important to achieve and maintain optimal health and fitness, and the way you order your workout does make a difference.  If you have the time, you may want to do your cardio in the morning, and strength training in the afternoon or evening, or vice versa.  However, this is not practical for many people trying to cram a workout into an already busy day.

If you have only a short amount of time, say 30-40 minutes, to do both your cardio and strength training, you may want to try combining them into intervals to get the most calorie-burning bang for your buck.  For example, do 3-5 minutes on the treadmill between every strength exercise.

But what if you have an hour or so to kill, and plan to do both cardio and resistance training?

There is some evidence to suggest that performing aerobic (cardio) exercise first may be more beneficial for enhancing post-exercise energy expenditure (ASCM’s Health and Fitness Journal, vol. 18) .  However, doing a vigorous or lengthy cardio session beforehand may tire out your muscles, compromising your strength workout.

On the other hand, there is also evidence to suggest that resistance exercise first benefits your metabolism, allowing you to burn more fat during your subsequent cardio workout (ASCM’s Health and Fitness Journal, vol. 18).

What you should do first depends on your fitness goals.  If you’re an endurance athlete, or are simply aiming to improve your aerobic fitness, I’d recommend hitting the cardio machines first.  If you want to improve your strength and power or are training for muscle hypertrophy (increasing the size of your muscles), then I’d say, do your strength training first.


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