Should You Do Cardio Before Or After Weights

Should You Do Cardio Before Or After Weights?


January 22, 2022

If you’re like many fitness enthusiasts, hitting the gym is only half the equation. Another challenging decision is finding the correct workout sequence.

Should you do cardio before or after weights?

Here’s a straightforward answer: it depends on your fitness goals.

Okay, that may not be the answer you were hoping for. Many people would prefer a yes or no answer.

Unfortunately, things aren’t that cut and dry when it comes to how muscles adapt to exercises.

We’ll get into all the nitty-gritty details in a bit.

But first, should you be doing cardio and also lifting weight?

Can You Combine Cardio and Strength Training?

Should You Do Cardio Before Or After Weights

Yes, indeed!

You can do aerobic exercises even if you are looking to build more muscles and improve your strength.

Cardio offers plenty of benefits and you shouldn’t shut yourself out from them just because you are looking to gain and maintain muscles or want to be stronger.

With aerobic exercise, you can become healthier overall.

In addition to improving your cardiovascular health, cardio workouts can regulate blood sugar and lower blood pressure.

You’ll also enjoy shut eyes at night and might even find that your brain performing better.

But there is a right and wrong way to go about combining cardio with strength training. So, before you get too excited, we’ll suggest you read how to do this properly.

How to Combine Cardio and Strength Training

Should You Do Cardio Before Or After Weights

Done correctly, cardio can boost the effect of strength training.

Meaning, you can even build more muscles and gain better strength if you know how to effectively mix endurance and resistance training (also known as concurrent training).

Not every type of cardio will work great with weight training. Here’s why.

Weight or strength training is anaerobic exercise. That means it is a form of high-intensity exercise fueled mainly by glucose.

On the flip side, cardio training is aerobic, meaning, it is fueled by oxygen.

Your body adapts differently to these two forms of exercise. And the best way to get the best of both worlds is to combine low-intensity cardio with weight training.

This way, one will not cancel the effects of the other.

So, what are the best low-intensity cardio to do with strength training?

Consider aerobic activities such as:

You might also want to include swimming and HIIT into your cardio workouts. But it is best to perform these moderately.

Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Ideally, you want to lift weights on different days and do cardio on non-lifting days. This is especially applicable if your primary goal is to build muscles.
    However, if you do cardio workouts on the same day you lift weights, your best bet would be to separate aerobics as far away from when you lift weight as possible.
    For example, if you do cardio exercises in the morning, move resistance or weight lifting to the evening. This will spare your muscle tissues from fatigue and severe damage.
  • Consider alternating your training routine. Mixing things up every once in a while is a great way to challenge your body in a new way.
    For example, you can stick to only cardio or weights for an entire week and then switch to either doing strength or cardio first for another week.
  • It is a good practice to pair your exercises in such a way that they won’t over-fatigue one muscle group.
    Here’s an example. Consider doing lower-intensity steady-state cardio on days when you plan to focus on lower-body strength workouts.

If you intend to do upper-body workouts, consider pairing your exercises with HIIT cardio.

By pairing your workouts this way, you won’t over-strain one muscle group with intense endurance training before or after resistance training on the same day.

Should You Do Cardio Before or After Weights: Does Order Matter?

Should You Do Cardio Before Or After Weights

To figure out whether or not exercise sequence really matters when combining cardio and strength training, here is a research-based explanation.

In 2014, a group of researchers from Rutgers University, New Jersey, conducted a study where 23 inactive participants took part in an 8-week workout program.

The exercises included either performing resistance training before endurance or vice versa.

The resistance training involved doing 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps of a handful of strength exercises. On the other hand, the cardio included moderate-intensity workouts performed for 30 minutes.

At the end of the 8 weeks, participants showed significant improvements in lean body mass, strength, and overall performance.

But most interestingly, the outcome wasn’t affected by the exercise order.

Bottom line: you shouldn’t split hairs on your workout sequence. A better approach would be to prioritize your workout routine to suit your goals.

That being said, below are some general suggestions about the ideal workout sequence if you really want to get the most out of your concurrent training.

When To Lift Weights Before Cardio

Should You Do Cardio Before Or After Weights

Start your workout session by lifting weight if you have a strength-specific goal like getting stronger.

Think about it this way:

Your muscles work in a similar way to rubber bands. Rubber bands will become too loose and can’t hold things together if you repeatedly pull them.

That’s exactly how the repetitive movements in cardio can affect your muscles. If you have a strength-specific goal, doing cardio first can hinder effective muscle contraction.

In a nutshell, head straight to the weight room when you hit the gym if you are lifting for maximal effort and strength training.

Lifting weights before performing cardio can also be beneficial in terms of the type of fuel your body produces and uses.

Glycogen (the stored form of glucose) is the fuel your body uses during strength training exercises.

This means when you lift weights first, your body produces enough glycogen as fuel. Interestingly, glycogen fuels muscular contraction.

That means your body will have enough glycogen to help you perform well in your low-intensity cardio after strength training.

Another good time to lift weight first before cardio is on lower-body strength training days.

When To Do Cardio Before Lifting Weights

Should You Do Cardio Before Or After Weights

Generally, it is best to use your energy for cardio exercises first before lifting weights if you are training for a marathon or any endurance event.

However, you don’t necessarily need an endurance-specific goal to do cardio first. You might benefit from doing some quick cardio before certain strength training exercises.

For example, you can use cardio as an effective warm-up strategy before lifting weight.

Performing steady-state cardio for about 10 minutes can prepare your body for the challenges of strength workouts.

You should also consider cardio before weights if you have a specific strength-related goal.

For instance, doing cardio first can be beneficial if you plan on learning a specific strength technique or deadlifting a certain amount of weight.

In this case, you should focus on low-intensity aerobics such as steady-state cardio.

Avoid HIIT by all means so you don’t get fatigued and perform poorly when it is time for your strength training.

However, it is okay to tune things up a bit with your pre-strength training cardio if you don’t have any specific strength training goals.

In that case, up to 8 minutes of HIIT session or between 15 to 25 minutes of aerobic intervals won’t hurt your weight lifting workouts.

In a nutshell, do cardio first if your main goal is to improve your endurance level. You can also start with short cardio as a warm-up strategy before lifting weights.

When To Do Either First

When To Do Either First

You can start with either of the two if your goal is general fitness. In this case, you are not concerned about building muscles, improving strength, or increasing your endurance level.

You just want to stay fit, so the workout sequence shouldn’t make any significant difference to you.

Here’s a tip, though.

Want to thoroughly enjoy doing both? Start with the training you like the least! However, don’t forget to do different types of cardio exercises from time to time.

Following the same cardio and weight training routine back-to-back won’t give room for adequate recovery.

Plus, things can become boring after a while.

Another good time to start with either cardio or weights is on upper-body strength training days.

Bottom Line

Should you do cardio before or after weights?

It all comes down to your fitness goals. For now, there is no credible and concrete research to show that your workout sequence has any serious impact on your overall results.

Generally, you should consider doing cardio first if your main goal is to increase aerobic endurance.

On the other hand, you’ll be better off lifting weights first if you are looking to get stronger.

In any case, it is better to start your workout routine with the exercise that is most crucial to your fitness goals when you are not fatigued.



Justin Rodriguez has spent most of his adult life inspiring people to take their fitness more seriously. He is not new to the business of providing practical solutions for those looking to set and smash their fitness goals. From sharing professional tips and tricks to recommending awesome products, Justin Rodriguez helps just about anyone who wants to get the best out of their workout routines.Having gathered a lot of experience both in and outside the gym, Justin Rodriguez uses DSW Fitness as a medium to show you exactly how to get that great-looking body with toned muscles you’ve always wanted.