Should You Do Cardio Before or After Lifting Weights? Trainers Explain
Any well-rounded fitness plan utilizes both cardio and strength training. But knowing if you should do cardio before or after weights can be confusing. Experts say there is a way to maximize the benefits of both cardio workouts and weight trainingwhile staying safe and meeting your goals—and that there are pros and cons to the fitness order you choose. Ahead, trainers explain the most efficient order to work out. Should you do cardio before or after weights?
The short answer is: It depends on your goals. When it comes to fitness, we usually work toward strength (or muscle size) and endurance (or cardiovascular health). It helps to understand which of these goals is your priority before determining whether you should be doing cardio or weights first.
“Using the holistic view of exercise, the choice to do cardio or weightlifting first depends on the goals and attitude or mindset of the individual,” explains Jim White, R.D.N., A.C.S.M. Ex-P, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. These goals usually come down to building strength or building endurance.
“You should prioritize and give more time and energy to whichever type of training would benefit your goal the most,” explains Kenta Seki, celebrity health and fitness coach.
So if your primary goal is to build endurance and focus on weight loss, you should focus on cardio before picking up weights. And if your primary goal is to build strength and muscle, you should get your weightlifting in first and finish with cardio.
White agrees, explaining that you may even want to consider doing cardio and weightlifting on different days. Ideally, “Cardio and weightlifting should be separated by 24 hours to effectively maximize strength or endurance,” he explains.
However, Seki notes that doing HIIT workouts (which incorporate both strength training and cardio) can be beneficial for some, as they are great for those who are short on time and offer a way to improve strength and cardiovascular endurance at the same time.
Still not sure what’s right for you? Below our experts explain the benefits of doing either weights or cardio first in your workout.
Doing weights before cardio
By lifting weights first, White notes that you are able to more easily focus on growing stronger muscles—and have more energy to focus on proper form, thus avoiding injury. Plus, White references a study that shows that lifting weights first leads to a longer time to exhaustion—which is basically the time it takes you to feel like you can no longer keep going in a workout.
Seki also explains that doing a light-to-moderate cardio session after strength training helps increase circulation, “Which can potentially decrease muscle soreness” following a workout.
The downsides of lifting weights before a cardio workout mostly come down to your goals. Seki recommends against doing weightlifting first if you are training for an endurance event, such as a long run. “Doing moderate-to-high intensity strength training first can fatigue your body and mind, and potentially decrease your ability to perform at your best for cardio training after.”
Doing cardio before weights
Whether or not you decide to do your cardio exercises first, both Seki and White agree that lower-intensity cardio is a great way to warm up your muscles before a higher-intensity workout or strength training routine. Doing cardio first will make your muscles less prone to injury and “prepares your body to do difficult, complex exercises and conditions your heart to pump more blood,” White says.
Another reason you may want to do cardio first is if you want to improve your endurance. Doing so will “allow you to maximize your energy and focus to perform your best for that cardio workout,” Seki explains.
If you plan to do intensive strength training, doing cardio first may put you at a disadvantage. You may not perform as well during your strength training exercises if you do too much cardio prior. Seki explains that during cardio we burn glycogen which is “our body’s primary source of fuel” that is stored in our muscles. And by burning too much of this fuel, the training that comes next often becomes more difficult—and in turn, less effective. White adds that by tiring yourself out during cardio, you become more prone to injury while lifting weights.
SHANNEN ZITZPUBLISHED: JUL 20, 2023