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Should You Do Cardio Before Or After Weights?

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 19, 2022

As a fitness trainer, I’m often asked whether it is good to do cardio before or after they work out.

Working closely with my fitness coach colleague, I spent hundreds of hours researching to get the information and give them a more accurate answer.

Keep on reading to know the best time to do your cardio.

Quick Summary

  • Doing low-intensity cardio warm-ups reduces the chances of injury during your weight training session.
  • When you do cardio first, you will be warmed and prepared to do your weight training.
  • Low-intensity cardio is an ideal way to start your workout to avoid depleting your energy when you lift weights.

Cardio Before or After Weight-Lifting Workouts?

A man in the gym lifting weights

If you don’t have particular fitness goals and want to improve your fitness level, it's important to balance aerobic exercise and strength training so you don't overload the same muscles and tendons.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, concentrating on the same muscle fibers throughout back-to-back intense cardio and strength training does not allow for appropriate recovery [1].

I used to find myself exhausted and performing poorly when combining cardio and resistance training and sometimes ended up with torn muscles.

You should always keep in mind the type of workout you are performing, for instance, intense weight lifting, before you decide whether to do cardio or weights first.

"Endless cardio will not help you grow muscle if you have a strength workout objective."

- Christine Torde, Certified Fitness Trainer & Coach

You can do cardio and weight training on the same day or session, but perform low-intensity cardio to avoid injuries.

If you're training for other reasons than being healthy and fit, for instance, exercising for a marathon, it is advisable to divide your cardio session and strength training so you don't become too weary.

Let’s say you want to achieve strength-based fitness goals or increase muscle mass; you may want to devote full workouts to weight training and maybe save your aerobics for rest days.

Doing Cardio Before Weights

A woman in the gym doing cardio

If you're preparing for a long-distance endurance race, like a triathlon, you should prioritize your aerobic workouts and concentrate on them before hitting the weights.

And if you're not aiming for a particular cardio objective, fitting in some aerobic before strength exercises can be useful — especially as a warm-up.

Cardio before weight training can be an excellent method for getting the body pumped up and ready for the difficulties of strength training.

Doing 10 minutes of gentle, steady state cardio before any significant exertion or exercise prepares the body for a workout session or performance.

I tend to keep it low-intensity whenever I have a particular strength-related objective, like deadlifting a precise weight range or mastering a certain form.

I avoid HIIT exercise and go for steady state cardio to reduce the chance of tiredness interfering with my strength training.

A 2013 research found that when athletes conducted a low-intensity warm-up for 15 minutes, they were capable of lifting more load in a 1-rep maximum exercise on the leg hydraulic press compared to those who did not warm-up, warmed for 5 minutes, or warmed for a certain length of time [2].

Lifting Weights Before Cardio

A man in the gym lifting weights

Lifting weights should come first if you want to develop your endurance, lift heavier, or gain muscle.

You may avoid overworking your body by ending your exercise with an aerobic session.

You'll be able to execute more repetitions with perfection while feeling less exhausted, which is vital for safe and effective resistance training.

Cardio exercise following strength training may provide an added advantage.

Muscle tissue stores glycogen, which is used to power muscle contractions.

Glycogen is formed from carbs, which your body converts into energy. When your system transforms glycogen into energy, it produces adenosine triphosphate, or ATP [3].

Byproducts of this process can be regenerated back to ATP and used by the body as energy.

Surprisingly, your body utilizes glycogen as energy throughout higher-intensity activities like weight training and produces byproducts that may be used as energy for lower-intensity exercises like steady-state aerobic.

The Best Type of Cardio to Combine with Weights

A person doing cardio on a tread mill

Weight training is an anaerobic activity consisting of brief periods of high-intensity exertion powered by glucose rather than oxygen.

Low-intensity cardio (driven by oxygen intake) is the greatest way to combine cardio and weight lifting in the same workout session.

Swimming, using treadmill machines, rowing, walking, running, or cycling are all forms of low-intensity aerobic activities.

The essential thing is to find the type of cardio workouts that you prefer.

If you love the activity, you will become more steady with it, rendering it more successful.

It's critical to offer your body diversity; sticking to the same cardio and strength training routine can lead to muscle and joint weariness and overuse disorders.

Benefits of Doing Cardio First

A woman doing cardio in the gym

Here are the benefits of prioritizing cardio:

  • Cardiovascular exercise raises your heart rate and improves blood flow all through your system. These elements aid the body in warming up and preparing for tougher exercise.
  • You have to warm up your muscles to reduce the chance of injuries during strength workouts, which is why a fast cardio workout routine is recommended beforehand.
  • If you aim to log some kilometers or prepare for a race, performing cardio can help you get higher running numbers since you won't feel sore or weary from lifting.
  • By increasing your metabolism before lifting weights, you will burn more calories during your exercise sessions, leading to weight loss.

According to a 2021 study in Scientific Reports, performing cardio before lifting weights may lead to muscle building and make you lose weight[4].

If you want to do cardiovascular training before your lifting session, always start with a 20- to 30-minute gentle walk or run.

I wouldn't suggest doing an hour of HIIT, boxing, or biking before weight lifting.

HIIT raises your respiratory rate for an extended time, making it challenging to shift to slower-paced resistance training workout sessions.

If you want to perform more rigorous cardio, perform it after lifting lighter weights or on a different day.

Benefits of Doing Weights First

Close up shot of someone's hand lifting weights

The main advantage of starting with weightlifting is that you're fresh and have as much energy to put into your repetitions.

You may hit your sets and reps with greater force and intensity than if you had previously done a run, kickboxing, or HIIT session.

This is essential if muscle gain is your primary aim.

After you've completed all of the hard lifts, you may finish your exercise with a light cardio session, such as a slow jog or an aerobic-based cooldown.

FAQs

Will 30 Minutes of Cardio Burn Muscles?

No, 30 minutes of cardio will not burn muscles if you do enough weight training and supplement your workout with a nutritious diet.

Does Cardio after Weights Burn Fat?

Yes. Doing cardio after weights burns body fat during the first fifteen minutes of that cardio workout.

How Long Should I Wait to Do Cardio After Lifting Weights?

You should wait around six hours to do cardio after lifting weights.

Should I Do More Cardio or Weights to Lose Belly Fat?

You should do more cardio than weights to lose belly fat. Cardio targets the waistline more than lifting weights.

Is Cardio Killing My Gains?

No, cardio is not killing your gains. If you do it incorrectly, it will slow down your muscle growth.

Are Cardio and Weight Lifting a Good Idea?

Of course, you will feel fatigued when you do cardio and weight lifting back-to-back.

But with a great focus and energy, you can perform the exercises effectively.

Consider incorporating the following recommended supplements before starting your workouts:

My clients and I have used the pre-workouts for months, testing them for safety and efficacy.

They provide your muscles with the endurance and strength required to start and finish your exercise without fatigue. You will also be more focused on finishing your training in no time.


References:

  1. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2014/01000/
  2. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2013/04000/
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/adenosine-triphosphate
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33742064/

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