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In the world of fitness, there are many confusing questions: How much exercise should you do and how do you schedule all those workouts each week? How do you know if you're doing it right and why is sweating so annoying (as one of my clients frequently asks)?

One question I get quite a bit is: Should I do cardio before or after strength training? There is no right answer to that question and it often comes down to your goals and your schedule. However, there have been some interesting studies suggesting that if your goal is to lose weight, cardio before strength training might be the way to go.

Not only can you burn more calories overall, you can maximize your afterburn by doing your cardio first. I talk about that as well as some ideas for how to schedule your workouts in my latest article, Cardio Before Strength Training.

I'd love to hear about your experiences. Do you do cardio and strength during the same workout? If so, how do you decide which one to do first? Leave a comment or, even better, post the details here for all of our readers to enjoy.

Comments
March 9, 2011 at 8:57 am
(1) Lisa says:

I always used to do cardio then strength training until trainer after trainer came up to me and asked why I was doing cardio first. They said that because of how hard I go during my cardio routine that I should lift before because my muscles would be worn down by the time I was done with cardio. So now of course I do strength training then cardio. Seems like I am always getting mixed messages, it is very frustrating!

March 9, 2011 at 9:36 am
(2) Frank says:

I do cardio before weights, I find I lose the “pumped up” feel if I do it afterwards.

March 9, 2011 at 9:46 am
(3) Keith says:

I do a combination of things depending on the day of the week, my odd work schedule and being the father of two toddlers. I broke down my cardio and strength workouts into 20 minute “chunks” that can be performed independently (jump rope, treadmill, bike) and strength routines. Depending on how my week goes I either integrate the two (jump rope for a couple of minutes between strength sets) or do them independently (treadmill at lunch on the days I work from home followed by strength), but get all modules in on a 6 day rotation.

March 9, 2011 at 9:47 am
(4) RichF says:

Weights then cardio. Who has the energy to lift after a real cardio workout? Not me.

March 9, 2011 at 11:28 am
(5) scout09 says:

I used to do strength training first, then cardio, then yoga. I’ve begun to do cardio first, because it is the most time consuming and I was becoming fatigued while doing the strength training first. It is good to know that there is some benefit to doing cardio first.

March 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm
(6) Wattydaddy says:

I generally do cardio first….I am close to 60 years old and the cardio really helps to loosen my muscles and joints, gets them warm and fluid.

I’ve tried it both ways over many many years and for me my weight training goes much better this way. May not work for everyone, and it might be a tad bit more beneficial the other way…but I like my cardio first.

March 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm
(7) Dan says:

“Do you do cardio and strength during the same workout?”

This is the hallmark of circuit training.

My own experience leads me to believe that if you try to combine cardio and strength training like that, you will only achieve mediocre results in both.

I find that it’s better to do them on separate days.

But that’s just been my experience. More knowledgeable people may disagree.

March 9, 2011 at 8:03 pm
(8) onig says:

Has to be strength before cardio. It is the only way to do both in the same workout schedule.
I teach a spin class and tried to do the strength afterwords and I had nothing left to perform any decent lifts. Its always do strength before cardio if I am doing a spin class on the same day.

March 10, 2011 at 1:40 am
(9) Mary says:

Since I’m now 60, I find I like to alternate cardio and strength training on different days, since doing both on the same day is somewhat exhausting and therefore not that enjoyable. Besides, I just like to keep at my current fitness level and if I do too much of either, I don’t enjoy my work-outs.

March 10, 2011 at 11:42 am
(10) rocky D says:

i am addicted to cardio first the trainers told me i should do weights first but i get such a good rush after running,so what i have started and the trainers agreed is to do half my run go weight train then do the other half of my run after weights

March 10, 2011 at 10:46 pm
(11) Philzee2 says:

I do 15 min of cardio as a warmup. It really helps me with my strength training.

March 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm
(12) Dex says:

I suggest a warm-up followed by resistance training and then cardio to finish. The reason is that most people do resistance work for a variable amount of time while cardio is done for a specific amount. For this reason, I’ve found that most people (on average) will exercise longer if cardio follows resistance work.

March 14, 2011 at 4:53 pm
(13) anon says:

I learned thru trial and error that my body reacts (weight loss) to cardio then strength training. And, I always keep the cardio to a 12 – 15 minute interval session. When I tried training and then cardio, the results stopped.

March 14, 2011 at 4:53 pm
(14) anon says:

Just wanted to add that the point of my comment is I don’t think it’s one size fits all – depends on the body/person.

March 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm
(15) Jon says:

Cardio for me is scattered throughout workouts with a mix of high intensity, interval, intermediate, and lsd workouts. For instance I might do, 5 handstand pushups, 10 pullups, 20 one legged squats, then run 400 meters, and do this for 5 rounds as fast as possible. Then the next day I might take a 10k run. It just depends, but it’s always varied.

March 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm
(16) Kimberly says:

I usually do a light bit of cardio before I do my weight training. Say, 10-15 minutes on an elliptical. It warms me up, gets my blood flowing & I still have plenty of energy to expend when I do my weight training. Afterwards I do some power yoga to keep my muscles supple & to avoid any tightening of the muscles. Seems to work:-)

March 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm
(17) John says:

Cardio, then lift, for me.

If I do the cardio section first, I find that I feel more energized and it’s easier to get a good pump when I lift. If I reverse the order of these, though, I have to warm up really thoroughly or I tend to be noticeably more sore the next day. Something about the cardio helps me avoid DOMS. I notice it the most when trying out a new weight regimen or different exercises.

March 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm
(18) furmom says:

As a trainer, I will ALWAYS suggest cardio AFTER. You will lose strength doing cardio first. Also, you will burn more fat doing it after!

March 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm
(19) Linda G. says:

It does not matter if you do cardio or strength first. But what matters any kind of strength training you need to warm up your body. I do at least 5 minute warm up 15 minutes cardio, before I start my strength training. It does not make you tired. In fact it’s a lot easier on you body to go right into strength training. Very important to get those muscle warm up. Cold muscle you can hurt yourself.

March 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm
(20) GullahProf says:

I find that cardio followed by weights works best for me. However, I love the cardio so much I must be careful to overdo it before the strength training. To make up I try to do longer cardio workouts 3 days a week without the weights following. At 77 years of age and still fully employed my workouts (all of them) give me the energy to get through each day. I sleep well–very well–and my arthritis seldom bothers me.

March 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm
(21) Marybeth says:

I do cardio then weights- many trainers told me I do it backwards but muscle fatigue meant I was running or bike wrong and led to injury- I do what works for me.

March 14, 2011 at 9:48 pm
(22) rachel says:

I do weights for 2hrs before cardio. My cardio lasts for a min. Of 30min. To a max of 50min. Depending on which weights I’ve done. If I do chest and triceps I usually burn around 450cal just with that alone so a 30min. Cardio session works. With back and biceps I do a little more cardio afterwards. Every other day I add in an abdominal workout inbetween weights and cardio. So I’ve been doing this for 6months and I’ve lost 25 pounds of pure fat and im the most tone I’ve ever been!! Hope this helps and stay motivated you can do it too!!!

March 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm
(23) Daria says:

I used to always do cardio before weight training. Now, I either do them on separate days or heavy cardio after weight training. For me, it had nothing to do with the training – I hated walking around completely drenched in sweat after an intense cardio session. Don’t get me wrong – I sweat pretty good during weight training but not sweating buckets like after getting off a cardio machine.

March 14, 2011 at 11:32 pm
(24) Richard says:

I generally ride my bike to the gym.
Depending on the route and my time 8-20 miles.
do weights, swim to cool down, then ride home at a moderate pace.

March 15, 2011 at 12:58 am
(25) Bernice says:

I used to do cardio before strength training – love it – my muscles were nice and warm ready for heavy strength training – now I switch it up – 2 days pure cardio, 3 days strength – but I always make sure that the strength days I do a 15 min warmup on the hardest cardio machine – for me the stairclimber. Either way no 1 size fits all – even for me I definitely like to mix it up.

March 15, 2011 at 3:16 am
(26) Gaurav says:

My goal is to lose fat. I do my cardio after my weight training.

Reason: My weight training routine uses up all the readily available glycogen in the liver and glucose in the blood to provide me energy to finish my workout.
Now after I finish my weight training, my body enter an anabolic stage where its trying to repair the damaged muscle by providing energy through burning fat, the so called afterburn. So if I follow up my weight training with 20 minutes of cardio and NO MORE, I am forcing my body to release more energy from fat.
But total workout time should not exceed 1 hr or the body might enter a catabolic stage where it will start breaking down muscle to provide energy.

Cardio after weight training work well for me.

March 15, 2011 at 3:32 am
(27) Steve says:

Yes, it does depend on your goals so there is no ‘correct’ answer. However, as more and more evidence has pointed to the importance of ‘resistance’ training this should not be neglected in favour of (too much), cardio. A very important reason to do weights first is that with a good weight training session, the muscles are depleted of glycogen. That means that from minute one you are burning fat with cardio. If you don’t do it this way, then it takes about 20 mins of cardio before you start burning any fat. Then you don’t have the energy substrates from the weight training that you ought to be getting. So, assuming general health and fitness are your goals, or of course ‘bodybuilding’ the do the weights first!

March 15, 2011 at 7:01 am
(28) Mike Doherty says:

Paige,

With respect to cardio first and strength training second, I was taught that it was the reverse. If you do cardio first you burn the glycogen needed to build (more) muscle. With more muscle you consume more calories over time as the muscles repair themselves after a workout. Maybe the answer lies in how you define time.

Mike Doherty

March 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm
(29) fat2fitness says:

I prefer to do cardio first.
The most important muscle in your body is the heart!!
The reason why people or trainers prefer the reverse is because they want to lift heavy weights. Yes you can not lift heavy weights when you are tired.

So it all boils down to goals. If you want to be ripped, very lean and fit with out bulging muscles cardio first will get you there. (overall fitness)

on the othe hand if you just want big /massive muscles you can probably leave out cardio altogether as many people do.

March 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm
(30) Bob Trame says:

I always do Weights before cardio. Weight loss is not a primary training objective for me. By the time I am done with a cardio workout I am perspiring quite heavily and continue to do so for at least the next 15 minutes. I would make a mess of the equipment and be at risk of injury due to a loss of grip if I did cardio first.
Having said that, I do like a short 10-15 minute cardio warm-up before lifting weights to get loosened up and to get the blood flowing. I feel more energized for the lifting routine and find I am able to lift heavier loads as well.

March 15, 2011 at 8:56 pm
(31) Mike says:

I used to break it up and do 5 to 10 mins of cardio prior to my weight routine and finish up with the remainder of my cardio workout. That was when my focus was on building muscles through weight training. Because my goal was adding muscle mass and you usually performed your reps to failure regardless of the amount of weight being used, you wanted to save your energy for weights.

Now that I am quite a bit older I have arthritis in both shoulders, both hips, my cervical spine, and my overall spine. I have also had hip resurfacing surgery due to being highly active in the military for 25 years. I was in the infantry for 7.5 years of which 3 were spent in the Airborne, jumping from perfectly good aircraft. Additionally, I was a Physical Education and Recreation Instructor for 7.5 years. One of my methods was to lead by example so every fitness class I gave, I participated in to motivate the other military personnel.

So my focus has now shifted to just staying fit and maintaining the muscle that I do have. I start my workout with 1 hour of non impact cardio followed by weights. I do a 4 day upper/lower routine and the cardio I choose is specific to my weight routine. On upper body days I start with the eliptical trainer or rowing machine to warm up the whole body and on lower body days I use the stair machines, treadmill (walking), or bikes. Many times I will do circuit training for my weight routine. This really has a way of invigorating me, and if I don’t have a bounce in my step when I leave I cut back a little.

I personally like this method of training and find it very convenient.

So to sum up, I guess you need to do what fits with your needs. And over your lifetime your needs with definitely change so be prepared to adapt.

March 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm
(32) Mike says:

After reading some of the comments it seems as though the exercise world hasn’t changed much over the past 25 years. There still seems to be a big grey void. You have fitness trainers on here claiming you can burn more fat by performing weight training first but yet the article suggests that cardio should be done first. I have also read a few articles on websites that claim cardio first. Each person is an idividual with different goals and should train accordingly for the desired results.

March 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm
(33) Rigo says:

I researched that if u left before you run you will target the fat and burn more of it compared to doing it vice versa. That’s just was researched has taught me. Hope it helps.

March 16, 2011 at 9:27 am
(34) Mike M. says:

I do the cardio part first, then walk around the gym (2-3laps), then some stretching, and finally free weight exercise. This is the routine taught by exercise physiologist to patients recovering from heart and stroke surgery.

March 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm
(35) Bo says:

Personally, I enjoy mixing it up. On heavy strength days, I’ll warm up with a 5-10 minute low intensity cardio session jogging or on the bike, followed by higher intensity resistance training, then finish it up with a longer (higher intensity than the first) cardio session and cooldown/stretching.

I’m also a strong advocate for circuit training, especially if you’re looking to shorten your mile time, it’s a great endurance builder. When training for my 2nd 10k, we used circuit training (1/2 lap then do pushups, situps, pullups, or hill sprints, alternating between half laps), and it cut my time by about 10 minutes (the first time I did the 10k it took me an hour, but after the training I was down to 50 minutes)

March 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm
(36) Teresa says:

All the comments are so helpful. As a matter of fact, I was stopped by someone at the gym yesterday who asked me why I did cardio before weights. I was taught in the beginning to do the opposite when I was trying to lose weight. As time went on and I met my goals, the trainer told me I could split it up and do some before, some after. Now I have an injury and have used the cardio before hand to warm up, and I feel like I need the cardio more right now because it’s been harder to stay fit with this injury. But I am still lifting weights every work out; right now I can only do 20-30 min cardio without aggravating my injury. I’m not looking to lift heavy right now, so I think it’s ok to do cardio before. But the person who stopped me last night told me they think it’s better for fat loss to do cardio after. I think I’ll just alternate! LOL

March 18, 2011 at 2:36 pm
(37) beginners workout says:

There does not seem to be a consensus among experts on this question. Personally, there is no way I could face an interval workout after a thoroughly exhausting strength workout, or vice versa. I do them on separate days.

April 25, 2011 at 7:12 pm
(38) V. McChesney says:

Strength training requires working muscles to fatigue. It seem to make a lot more sense to do your cardio FIRST, and THEN work the muscles to fatigue rather than vice versa.

June 10, 2011 at 2:42 am
(39) VM says:

Depends on your goals. For me, I want to build muscle while at the same time burn fat. I know people say that it is impossible to do that, but i’m not trying to FULLY BULK up, just gain a bit here and lose a bit there. You really need to find a balanced diet and routine to get there, and for me, I found a way and i’m maintaining it.

February 5, 2012 at 5:09 pm
(40) Janelle says:

I have been told to do weight training first. The reason for this is you burn your glucose levels first. Glucose is sugar. Whatever is not burned turns into fat. When you do strength training first you burn up your glucose levels. When u get finished with weight training and go to cardio your body knows the glcuose is gone and it will go after the fat. You will be in fat burning mode.
this is what I have read in a lot of articles and online and trainers have also told me that as well. I just started doing weight training first and cardio last about a week ago. It’s taking a littl bit to get used to it.
I have always done cardio first but thought hey I’ll try the other way and see what happens.

May 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm
(41) Dan says:

Why do cardio at all? Unless you goal is endurance sports, typical cardio programs are a waste of time for both health and fitness. Get strength training in 3-4 times a week and fix your diet, add sprints and metabolic conditioning in after that. Skip long distance plyometrics (aka jogging/running). It takes years for someone to work up to that level.

July 31, 2012 at 9:49 am
(42) muhammadika says:

i think cardio first is best for pumping up, then your weight lifting next.

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