Why Doing HIIT Before Weight Lifting Can Torch Calories

Mixing a big cardio session with a weight lifting workout isn’t the most common thing to see in the gym. Let alone mixing an intense HIIT cardio working before weight lifting as it goes it against the accepted notion that you should always start a weight lifting workout fresh and not beat after cardio. However, a recent study begs to differ. Sequencing a cardio HIIT workout before weight lifting might be the secret to unlocking new muscle growth and gains in the gym. Read on to find out more.

Why Cardio HIIT Before Weights Is the Best Combo

A recent study published in the Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness found that the magic combo of sequencing a HIIT cardio session before a weightlifting session yielded some pretty serious results. The study tested a group of men aged 20 to 30 by having the group interval HIIT sprints with a weight lifting workout. Then, the group of men did the opposite sequence, weights then HIIT cardio, which follows the general gym rule of thumb of lifting at the top of workout with fresh muscles. However, the results came in, and what was found was that doing intervals before weights netted higher energy expenditure and greater post-exercise oxygen consumption—which means the workout challenged the body more during and after the workout. 

Some weight trainers are a little apprehensive about using HIIT training in their workout routine from the fear that will decrease their gains. However, a 2006 study found that at the end of an eight-week cycling HITT training program, participants in the study could cycle twice the distance at the same pace when they started. This indicates that not only can HIIT improve your output per workout, but it can also help increase overall athletic performance over a long period of time with substantial results. 

How Weight Lifting Can Help You Burn Fat

HIIT has been linked to an increase in HGH (or Human Growth Hormone, which promotes muscle growth). Not just a slight increase in HGH either, one study found that post HIIT, HGH can raise up to 450% compared to at rest levels. So, if you are experiencing a bit of plateau in your gym progress, utilizing a HIIT style workout might be the thing to get you out of that rut. 

Cardio HIIT and Weight Lifting Workout 

Below is a workout that sequences a cardio HIIT workout before a weight lifting workout to torch calories and promote muscle growth. While the idea of a HIIT workout is to push your body to its maximum capacity, it’s important to also remember to listen to your body and when to take a break. With further ado, here is our cardio HIIT and weight lifting double-punch workout. 

Sprinting HIIT Workout 

This sprinting workout can be done either outside or on a treadmill, but if you are on a treadmill, keep in mind the time it takes for the treadmill to adjust to sprinting pace to a jogging pace and vice versa to avoid any tripping. Now onto the workout! 

Start with an easy-paced 3-minute warm up, you should be able to talk while holding your warm-up pace. After those 3 minutes are finished, launch into a 15-second all-out sprint at your absolute fastest pace. Think a “bear is running behind me” kind of pace. After that, recover with a 30-second easy jog. Repeat this four times. 

Then, move on to switching between a 20-second sprint and a 20-second recovery. Repeating this four times. 

Lastly, sprint for 30 seconds and recover jog for 20 seconds, again repeat four times. Your workout outline looks like this: 


  • 3 Minute Easy Pace 

1st Round 

  • Sprint for 15 Seconds 
  • Recover Jog  for 30 Seconds 
  • Repeat 4 Times

2nd Round 

  • Sprint for 20 Seconds 
  • Recover Jog for 20 Seconds 
  • Repeat 4 Times 

3rd Round

  • Sprint 30 Seconds 
  • Recover Jog 20 Seconds 
  • Repeat 4 Times

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Weight Lifting HIIT Workout

For every exercise, do the movement at your maximum capacity for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds and then move on to the next movement. Continue with 40 seconds on and 20 seconds off until you finish in the final exercise. Rest for one minute and repeat four times in full. 

Kettlebell Swings 

While doing this, exercise focus on driving your hips forwards and straightening your back to send the kettlebell up to shoulder height. Try not to lose control of the momentum of the kettle and let the bell return between your legs and repeat the move. Although your arms are doing most of the movement during this exercise, make sure you are powering the movement with your “posterior chain,” otherwise known as you hamstrings and glutes, and not tweaking your arms up trying to lift the weight. 

Dumbbell Thrusters 

The first thing to consider when doing this exercise is to make a choice between high reps and low weight or low reps, higher weights. Either work for a HIIT style workout, you only have to make sure that you will be able to perform at your maximum capacity whatever that is for you. Also, when doing this movement, focus on driving through your heels and engaging your quads and glutes. Look to maintain that controlled momentum when you come up to the top of the squat position and use it to move the weight of the dumbbells over your head. 

Renegade Row 

Renegade rows are a great exercise to keep in your back pocket as it works out those pesky and hard to train back muscles while conditioning the rest of your body. But during the exercise, it’s really important to keep your form in mind to avoid injury in your shoulders or neck. When you begin the movement, make sure to place both kettlebells a little closer than shoulder-width apart and start from a solid push up position with your core engaged. Focus on squeezing your back to lift the weight and not putting any tension in your neck. 

Burpee with Dumbbell Press Up 

While yes, this is a more brutal version of the already crowd hated regular burpees, this exercise is the last in the set and is a powerhouse to condition your body. While doing this, remember to stay in control of your momentum and never let any part of your body (arms, neck, legs) to “rag doll” during the exercise. Always stay at a controlled pace to avoid overextension. 

How & Why You Should Stretch Before Weight Training

Do HIIT Cardio and Weight Lifting Really Mix?

While there is scientific research to support the idea that HIIT cardio and weight lifting are a match made in heaven, it’s also important to listen to your body and its limits. Though if you are looking to amp up your workout routine, switching up your cardio and weight training is a great place to start. What has been your experience with cardio HIIT workouts and weight training? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Lesley George

Lesley is a content writer and community manager at Shape.
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