Should you do cardio before or after lifting weights?

ONCE UPON A TIME, the muscular guys were told they had to choose between cardio and weight lifting. The two were considered mutually exclusive: lifting for added mass torpedoed aerobic athletes’ stamina and endurance, while cardio not only targeted the wrong muscle fibers to build strength and muscle, but also sabotaged efforts to achieve those same goals ( or so everyone thought). The result was an institutional rift that inspired an unfortunate dogma: lifters didn’t run and aerobic lifters didn’t lift.

Luckily, science has proven the truth about what many top athletes might have told you about that kind of rigid division of training: For most fitness goals, it doesn’t make sense.

Research shows that incorporating cardio into a lifting program can increase resistance and training volume, helping you do more reps and perform more exercises during each workout. Aerobic athletes (runners, cyclists, rowers, etc.) who incorporate weight lifting into their training plans, meanwhile, can enjoy improvements not only in speed, economy and power, but also in time to exhaustion. . What’s more, weight lifting may even help these athletes improve VO2 max, according to University of Oklahoma researchers.

Bottom line, no matter what your training goal or fitness goals are, the question is no more self you should include both cardio and strength training in your exercise program, but rather As to do it most effectively and if you are too busy to do them in separate workouts, what to do first in a one-on-one workout or on the same day. Should you do cardio before or after weight training?

How to decide between cardio before or after weights

man exercising on exercise bike

Hirurge//Getty Images

If you were to poll personal trainers on the questions they get most often, there’s one that would show up on almost every list: What should I do first in a workout: lifting or cardio?

It’s a complex question, and the full answer depends on a number of factors, including your fitness level, training experience, athletic goals, and how much time you can spend training each day. It’s also a bit of a false dilemma, as there are several ways to do strength training and cardio simultaneously, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and circuit training. But if you have general fitness goals, want to approach cardio and strength training separately in the same workout, and are looking for a general rule of thumb, here it is: Lift first, cardio second. If you’re looking to break your workout into a split of two workouts per day, follow these tips to optimize your efforts.

Why cardio should come before weights

The reason is that strength training typically involves external loading (for example, with a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, etc.) and therefore has a more acute risk of injury. Pre-fatiguing your muscles with cardio before lifting weights will only increase that risk, not to mention torpedo weightlifting performance. In short, you won’t be able to lift as much or perform as many reps as you would if you were just starting out with your strength training.

If you intend to lift heavy loads, you need your muscles to be fresh to do so in good shape and load them sufficiently to optimize their growth stimulus. You simply can’t do it if you pre-strain your muscles with cardio.

Downsides of cardio before weights

Of course, there’s also the counter-argument: If you lift weights before doing cardio, won’t that inhibit your aerobic performance? The answer is yes. Research suggests you’ll likely notice a reduction in power, speed and endurance, providing even more incentive to perform strength and cardio workouts on different days.

But what lifting weights before doing aerobic exercise doesn’t do is significantly increase your risk of injury, and that’s a key difference to keep in mind when designing your workouts and planning your training plan.

Exceptions to the cardio before weights rule

As with all things in life, some rules are made to be broken, and lift first, cardio second decree is no different. Here are a couple of cases where you should flip the script.


Exercising without warming up is like driving a car in winter without letting it idle: you’ll strain the engine or (at the very least) affect its performance.

preview for Never train your back without a proper warm-up |  Men's health muscle

Warming up with some light cardio before any workout, whether it’s strength-based or cardio, will help prepare your muscles for action. You’ll increase blood flow throughout your body, energize your nervous system, and increase your mental focus, all of which will set you up for a great sweat session.

HIIT and circuit training

There are also times when it makes sense to combine strength training and cardio in the same workout. HIIT and circuit training are two of them. Protocols that get you moving like EMOM and AMRAP are two more. The basic idea is this: By prioritizing work efforts and minimizing rest periods, you keep your heart rate elevated and your metabolism revving as you challenge your muscles and stimulate hypertrophy.

In short, you get the best of both worlds: the calorie-burning and endurance-boosting benefits of cardiovascular conditioning and the muscle-building and power-building rewards of strength training.

But here’s the thing: You shouldn’t be doing these high-intensity cardio workouts every day. In fact, you should only do it two or three times a week (at most), because if you do it more often, your body won’t have time to recover enough between sessions. So what should you do on other days? You guessed it: strength training and/or low-intensity cardio.

Headshot of Trevor Thieme CSCS

Trevor Thieme is a Los Angeles-based writer and strength coach and former fitness editor at Mens Health. When he’s not helping others get in shape, he divides his time between surfing, skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and trying to keep up with his seven-year-old daughter.

#cardio #lifting #weights
Image Source :

Leave a Comment