Should You Do Cardio Before or After Strength Training?


 Should You Do Cardio Before or After Strength Training?

When it comes to designing an effective workout routine, a common question that arises is whether to do cardio exercise before or after strength training. The answer to this question depends on your fitness goals, personal preferences, and the specific demands of your workout. In this article, we will explore the benefits and considerations of both approaches, helping you make an informed decision that aligns with your individual needs.

The Importance of Warming Up

Before diving into the debate of cardio before or after weights, it's crucial to emphasize the importance of warming up. Regardless of the order in which you choose to perform your exercises, starting with a proper warm-up routine is essential.

A warm-up prepares your body for the upcoming workout by increasing blood flow, raising core temperature, and activating muscles, ligaments, joints, and tendons. This helps reduce the risk of injury and enhances overall performance. Spending 5 to 10 minutes engaging in light-intensity cardiovascular exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, is an effective way to warm up before any workout.

Cardio Before Strength Training

If your primary goal is to improve endurance, stamina, or cardiovascular health, performing cardio exercise before strength training may be beneficial. By prioritizing cardio at the beginning of your workout, you can engage in a more intense cardiovascular session.

Starting with cardio allows you to push yourself to your maximum capacity, reaching your lactic acid threshold or VO2 max level. This can be challenging to achieve after a strenuous weightlifting session. Therefore, if cardiovascular fitness is your main focus, it is recommended to perform cardio workouts before resistance training.

Strength Training Before Cardio

On the other hand, if your goal is weight loss or fat burning, there is a growing belief in the fitness community that performing cardio exercise after strength training can enhance the rate of fat metabolism. The theory behind this approach is that during a resistance workout, glycogen stores in the muscles are depleted. Once these glycogen stores are depleted, the body starts utilizing stored fats as a fuel source.

Endurance athletes have long been aware of this phenomenon, but it typically requires continuous aerobic activity for approximately 90 minutes to fully deplete muscle glycogen. While it remains debatable whether the average person working out for less than an hour can achieve glycogen depletion, more advanced trainers may benefit from this strategy to decrease body fat.

It's important to note that if you choose to prioritize strength training before cardio, you should ensure that you warm up properly with a light cardiovascular activity beforehand.

Exceptions to the Rule

While the general recommendation is to perform cardio before or after strength training based on your fitness goals, there are exceptions to this rule. Let's explore two specific scenarios where flipping the order can be advantageous.

Warming Up

Regardless of your workout routine, warming up is essential for optimal performance and injury prevention. Starting with a few minutes of light cardio exercise before any workout, including both cardio and strength training, helps increase blood flow, raise core temperature, and mentally prepare for the upcoming session. Remember, a proper warm-up routine sets the foundation for a productive workout.

HIIT and Circuit Training

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and circuit training are two popular workout styles that combine cardiovascular exercise with strength training. These workouts involve alternating between intense bursts of activity and short rest periods. HIIT and circuit training provide a unique opportunity to reap the benefits of both cardio and strength training simultaneously.

By incorporating these workout modalities into your routine, you can elevate your heart rate, challenge your muscles, and stimulate hypertrophy (muscle growth). However, it's important to avoid performing high-intensity cardio workouts every day to allow your body sufficient time to recover. On the days you're not doing intense cardio, focus on strength training or lower-intensity cardio to maintain a well-rounded fitness regimen.

Individual Fitness Goals and Priorities

When determining whether to do cardio before or after strength training, it's crucial to consider your individual fitness goals and priorities. If your primary objective is to build muscle and increase strength, starting with strength training is recommended. By prioritizing strength training, you ensure that your muscles are fresh and able to lift heavier weights, maximizing their growth stimulus.

On the other hand, if you aim to improve cardiovascular fitness, endurance, or overall heart health, giving priority to cardio workouts is more appropriate. Doing cardio before strength training allows you to focus on pushing your cardiovascular limits without compromising the energy and strength needed for effective weightlifting.

It's essential to remember that regardless of the order you choose, incorporating both cardio and strength training into your workout routine offers numerous benefits for overall fitness and well-being. Additionally, always prioritize a proper warm-up and listen to your body's needs and limitations.


The question of whether to do cardio before or after strength training doesn't have a one-size-fits-all answer. The decision should be based on your fitness goals, personal preferences, and the specific demands of your workout routine.

Starting with a proper warm-up, including a few minutes of light-intensity cardio, is vital for injury prevention and optimal performance. If your primary goal is to improve endurance or cardiovascular health, performing cardio exercise before strength training is recommended. Conversely, if weight loss or fat burning is your focus, consider doing cardio after strength training.

Exceptions to the rule include warming up before any workout and incorporating HIIT or circuit training into your routine to combine cardio and strength training. Ultimately, understanding your individual fitness goals and priorities will guide you in making the best decision for your workout routine.

Remember, fitness is a journey, and finding the optimal balance between cardio and strength training will evolve as you progress. Listen to your body, seek guidance from fitness professionals, and enjoy the process of discovering what works best for you.


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