Which Should You Do FirstCardio or Weights? Personal trainers explain

Any well-rounded fitness plan uses both cardio and strength training. But knowing whether you should be doing cardio before or after weights can be confusing. Experts say there’s a way to maximize the benefits of both cardio workouts AND weight training staying safe and reaching your goals and that there are pros and cons to the order of fitness you choose.

Next, the trainers explain the most efficient order to train.

Should you do cardio before or after weights?

The short answer is: it depends on your goals. When it comes to fitness, we’re usually targeting strength (or muscle size) and endurance (or cardiovascular health). It helps to figure out which of these goals are your priority before determining if you should do cardio or weights first.

Using the holistic view of exercise, the choice to do cardio or weightlifting first depends on the individual’s goals and attitude or mindset, she explains Jim White, RDN, ACSM Ex-P, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. These goals usually boil down to building strength or building endurance.

You should prioritize and spend more time and energy on whichever type of workout will benefit your goal the most, she explains Kenta Sekicelebrity health and fitness coach.

So if your main goal is to build endurance and focus on weight loss, you should focus on cardio before lifting weights. And if your main goal is to build strength and muscle, you should start with weight lifting first and finish with cardio.

White agrees, explaining that you might also consider doing cardio and weight lifting on different days. Ideally, cardio and weightlifting should be separated by 24 hours to effectively maximize strength or endurance, he explains.

However, Seki notices what he’s doing HIIT workouts (which incorporate both strength training and cardio) may be beneficial for some, as they’re great for those pressed for 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 weights or cardio first in your workout.

Do weights before cardio

Professionals

By lifting the weights first, White notes that you can more easily focus on growing stronger muscles and have more energy to focus on proper form, thus avoiding injury. Also, White refers to study this goes to show that lifting weights sooner leads to a longer time to exhaustion, which is basically the time it takes for you to feel like you can’t go on in a workout anymore.

Seki also explains that doing a light to moderate cardio session after strength training helps increase circulation, which can potentially reduce muscle soreness after a workout.

Against

The disadvantages of lifting weights before a cardio workout mostly depend on your goals. Seki recommends not doing weightlifting first if you’re training for an endurance event, like a long run. Doing moderate to high intensity strength training first can strain the body and mind and potentially reduce your ability to perform at your best cardio afterward.

Do cardio before weights

Professionals

Whether or not you decide to do your cardio first, both Seki and White agree that low-intensity cardio is a great way to warm up your muscles before a high-intensity workout or strength-training routine. Doing cardio first will make your muscles less prone to injury and prepare your body to do difficult, complex exercises and condition your heart to pump more blood, says White.

Another reason you might want to do cardio first is if you want to improve your endurance. This will allow you to maximize your energy and focus to best perform that cardio workout, Seki explains.

Against

If you plan on doing intensive strength training, doing the cardio first could put you at a disadvantage. You may not perform as well during strength training exercises if you do too much cardio beforehand. Seki explains that during cardio we burn glycogen, which is our body’s main source of fuel that is stored in our muscles. And by burning too much of this fuel, your next workout often becomes more difficult and, in turn, less effective. White adds that as you tire during cardio, you become more prone to injury while lifting weights.

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Assistant editor

Shannen Zitz is assistant editor at Prevention, where it covers everything related to lifestyle, well-being, beauty and relationships. Previously editorial assistant at Prevention, she majored in English at the State University of New York at Cortland. If she’s not reading or writing, you can probably find her frequenting skincare and makeup forums on Reddit or hogging the squat rack at the gym.

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