Should You Do Cardio Before or After Weight Training?

Find out which sequence is the best for your body

It is one of those age-old questions. On parr with the likes of where do we come from? Where do we go after we die? But most importantly, do you do cardio before or after weight training?

It seems that every gym-goer has a different myth to back up their perspective claim on which sequence is the best for you. Some say that you burn more fat and warm your body up if you start off with some cardio. While others support the idea that you should focus your energy on your weight training and save the last bit for cardio. 

So which is the right approach? Who wins this debate? Well, science weighs in to answer that very question. 

General Health Benefits of Strength Before Cardio 

According to research from Osaka University, printed in the Journal of Applied Physiology, you should do cardio after your strength training exercises. Although their reasoning for putting strength before cardio isn’t because it gives crazy fitness results, so don’t get your hopes too high. In fact, what this study found is that doing aerobic exercise after resistance training prevents your arteries from becoming “stiff”. Not exactly the muscle-building rocket fuel you were hoping for, right? Nonetheless, nobody wants a stiff artery.

Plus, it’s not like you have to run a marathon after your weight session to achieve the grand appeal of flexible arterial function. The participants in this study only did about a “twenty-minute treadmill run maintaining a maximal heart rate of 60%”. So, essentially a well-powered jog for about twenty minutes should keep old arteries pretty bendy. 

Why Cardio Before Strength Training Benefits Endurance Training

Meanwhile, a study in the Journal of Human Kinetics found that the endurance performance of participants decreased when strength-training exercises were completed first. Which makes sense, right? If you wear yourself out pumping weights you are not going to start off your cardio super strong. This is especially true if you have a longer cardio session incorporated into your workout routine. Anything along the lines of 30 minutes plus of cardio you are better to do at the start of your workout. Also, if you are training for a cardio-based event, like a marathon or triathlon, then you might benefit most from putting your cardio at the beginning of your workout. 

Another study found that a single resistance training session before long, endurance cardio training can increase muscle soreness, impact running gait, and deplete glycogen levels. Again, this echoes the findings of the study just mentioned, in that you can tire yourself out by doing strength training first, and therefore might not have the best cardio session. This study also concludes that not only will you be psychically worn out, but your tiredness might also impact your running form. This can increase your chances of getting injured and can build bad habits over time. 

Another important factor noted by this study is that your glycogen stores (the amount of carb-based energy in your system) are also depleted if you try doing cardio after a weight session. This can impact your workout in a way that you won’t have the energy stores to really push hard through your cardio sets. Which is not so great if you are again training to beat your “personal bests” or improve on your cardio game in general.

Why Strength Before Cardio Benefits Weight Training

2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that doing aerobic exercise before lifting weights led to fewer completed reps. This follows a very similar logic to the study mentioned before about fatigue before cardio. The gist of it is this: if you would really like to put your most energy into your weight sets, then you should probably so that first. Otherwise, you’ll just tire yourself out with cardio beforehand. 

Essentially, whatever component of your workout routine you would like to focus on the most you should do first. As you will have the most amount of energy to put towards that type of exercise at the top of your workout. 

Why Cardio & Strength Combined Is Great For Weight Loss 

The Journal of Science and Sport published a 2015 study that compared the fat-loss effects of an 8-week trial of each training order, cardio then strength and strength then cardio, in a group of thirty obese men. The results? Well, they are pretty much the same across the board. As it turns out if you can manage to squeeze in both types of exercise into your workout you’re already on the up and up. However, the study did calculate that doing strength training before cardio was yielded slightly more results as participants who did strength before cardio saw 0.27% more of their body mass disappear than the other group. 

So all in all, it is safe to say that by managing to do both cardio and strength training in whatever order will put you on a good path to shed some pounds. 

What’s The Verdict? 

So essentially whether you do cardio or strength training first all depends on why you are in the gym. Are you training hard for a marathon? Better put the most of effort in your cardio at the start of your workout. Looking to improve your general health? Maybe throw in a touch of cardio after your strength training session.

Meanwhile, if strength training is your main squeeze, then you better prioritize that first before your cardio for better results.

However, if you are just headed to the gym to try and lose some weight any order is good so don’t sweat it if you can’t find a treadmill right off the bat. 

Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
Use our free guide to design your very own personalized nutrition plan.
Download e-Book
Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
... start working on your unique diet plan.
Download E-Book

Lesley George

Lesley is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
Use our free guide to design your very own personalized nutrition plan.
Download e-Book
Get the Ultimate Nutrition Guide
... start working on your unique diet plan.
Download E-Book

We are using cookies on our website

Please confirm, if you accept our tracking cookies. You can also decline the tracking, so you can continue to visit our website without any data sent to third party services.