Cardio or Strength Training First?

Yeah, this doesn't really have much to do with the post. But I'll use any opportunity to inlcude a picture of Tyler Davin.

We know that to get the most of your workout, you should do a combination of cardiovascular exercise (i.e., swimming, running, jogging, biking, etc.) and strength training (i.e., lifting weights, push-ups, etc.). But which should you do first? Does the order matter?

It’s one of the most frequently asked fitness questions of all time.

And, as it turns out, the order does matter. But probably not for the reasons you think.

The old school conventional wisdom holds that strength training should come first. Cardiovascular exercise is taxing, and though it is largely about endurance, it does place resistance on muscles – especially if you’re moving at an incline. If you wear your muscles down from cardio, the theory is that you’ll be less effective in your strength training. This is especially true for your various leg muscles. Cardio can also leave the body fatigued, making it harder to lift weights.

However, recent research from Brigham Young University has demonstrated that performing cardiovascular exercise prior to strength training is more beneficial in post-exercise energy consumption. In other words, if you do cardio first, you’ll burn more calories during the rest of you day. This is an attractive benefit for most exercisers.

So, if your focus is muscle size only, then it may make sense to do cardio last. But if you’re concerned with weight loss or definition, it may make more sense to do it first.

But really, the biggest variable in the equation is personal preference.

I dread my cardio routine. It’s grueling. I want to get it done early, so that it’s not hanging over my head during the workout. Other people enjoy cardio – and they take the mindset of saving the best for last.

I wouldn’t get too hung up on the whole idea – I think it’s much more important to do whatever works for you.

Do you do cardio or strength training first? Why? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. I love cardio

  2. My normal gym routine: I do an hour+ run, half an hour on a bike, then 15 minutes on a stair climber before I even think about doing anything with weights.

    • That’s a lot of cardio! Have you ever tried interval training? You should be able to get more bang with less buck! Less time but better results.

  3. it’s interesting, I also do some Tracy Andersson Method work and at a book signing for her new series she stated the opposite of the findings shown here. It’s hard to know what’s what as so many people have such varying opinions.

  4. I usually do them separately… one day swimming and running and the other weights… as I like to go as intense as possible in both. Doing both is too tiresome and I can’t get to the edge. This being said however, I always do some yoga first (weights) or after (swimming/running) to stretch and prepare the body and mind!

  5. That Tyler fellow has the basis for a pretty nice body, maybe if he were a bit more lean…

    Okay WTF is that? I googled him. Amazing. : )

  6. Whats your take on interval training on the elliptical (with the movable arms)?

  7. I watch TV while riding the elliptical so it’s not so grueling I hate running though, I find it boring and quite stressful on the body.

    It makes sense to do at least a little cardio prior to lifting if weight loss is your goal, even if you save your full cardio routine till later. It elevates your heart rate and thus will keep it up during your lifting, just don’t sit there idly between sets, keep that heart rate up even if it just means walking around.

  8. I had always done my cardio after because that’s what I had always been told was best. I’m so glad to hear that because I know how necessary it is especially since I’m over 40 and the fat doesn’t burn off like it used to that I could do my cardio first and get it over with. I fall more into the group that believes cardio is about as much fun as getting a root canal.

  9. depends on my pain level.. and if the gym is really jammed… i hate waiting in line to use the benches, pull-up bar and machines… especially in my gym.. put down the fucking iphone and finish your set… do you really need to tweet after every rep you do? jeeez…. anyway, if the gym is crowded ill go do cardio first.. let the club queens/escorts/porn stars disappear and then go do my weight training…

    ~ cheers…

    • LOL David, I feel the same way about the people on phones at the gym. Leave the damn thing at home or in the car. One time I saw a personal trainer working with this guys and the trainer sat there for about 15 minutes while the guy was talking on the phone. I had to give props to that trainer, I probably would have grabbed the phone from him and thrown it across the room.

    • Not all of us use our iPhone at the gym to play around. I have mine with me all the time during my weight training because I have an app I use to catalog my weight/reps/sets, etc. instead of using a pen and paper.

      Some might tweet and text, but I don’t. I find more benefit in using my iPhone to keep track of my progress.

  10. I do it just like you Davey. I have always started with cardio, usually 30 minutes. I like that it really warms up my body. I’m not ready to lift the minute I walk into the gym, especially if it is cold outside. And yes, by using up your glycogen (stored energy) it helps burn more calories during lifting. I don’t find I lift more weight if I skip the cardio first.

  11. Christopher DeIulio says:

    That Tyler is hot. Was a right pick me up in fact… Thanks Davey.

  12. Christopher DeIulio says:

    That Tyler is hot. Was a right pick me up in fact… Thanks Davey.

  13. Cardio last so I have the energy to get through all the weights first. All the remaining energy gets thrown into 30+ minutes of cardio for the final burn. Any energy remaining goes into legs

  14. I do cardio first, for two reasons:

    First, it gets me in the proper mindset for working out, and after it I’m more ready for strength training.

    And second, the gym I go to is sometimes a litle overbooked, and you’ve gotta wait up to fifteen minutes for the cardio machines. I prefer waiting, then doing cardio and then strength than doing strenght, then waiting (and cooling down) and then cardio.

  15. When I do both strength training and cardio on the same day, I do cardio last… why? I sweat profusely during cardio, and by the end of even a short cardio workout of 15 minutes I’m dripping… By that point, I’m ready to strip off my clothes and take a nice long shower and relax in the sauna.

  16. Glad to hear that doing cardio first is acceptable. I do it first because I enjoy lifting, but hate cardio, so if I don’t do cardio first, I am more apt to skip it and go on home after lifting.

  17. I do 10 mins on treadmill or elliptical ( 2 at 2mph, 3 mins at 3.5 mph, 2-3 mins at 4-4.5 mph and 2 min at 2mph) then 10 min Cycling (high intensity. After cardio, i do my strength training for around 45-50 mins. and at last i come back to elliptical 10 mins ( moderate intensity) .. can u please tell me weather this will help me ? thanks

  18. cecil brooks says:

    I strongly prefer cardio first being that it warms me up and gets me psychologically revved to lift weights, loosens muscles, gets my heart rate up, days I get to the gym feeling sluggish cardio gets me jump started. I do 20 minutes on the recumbent bike, 20 minutes on the treadmill, then start my routine for either arms/chest, legs, or shoulders /back… alternating those routines weekly. From there I sit in the jacuzzi then do ten laps in the pool. go home to a good fruit and vegetable smoothie, dinner and a good eight or more hours of sleep.