Some people do their cardio before they lift. Some do it after, and some even do it in the middle of their lifting session. Ideally, a balanced fitness program would contain both, but does doing one before the other sabotage our progress?
The answer is: it’s all about your goals. But what does that mean?
Cardio before Weights
If you are training for a marathon or some other endurance event, or your goal is to improve your cardiovascular endurance, do your cardio first. If you strength train or lift first, you’ll have less energy for your cardio sesh.
Lifting weights first may stress your body in ways that might hinder your endurance progress. According to a review in Sports Medicine, resistance training before endurance training can increase muscle soreness and deplete muscle energy for several hours.
Weights Before Cardio
If your main goal is to build muscular strength and power, lift, or weight train before cardio. If you do cardio first, you won’t have the energy you need for your lifting.
A study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning indicates that doing cardio before strength training can make you feel weaker and more tired than you are. And I can verify that feeling tired caused me to stop lifting before I had completed all my sets.
How about Doing Both at Once?
As someone who always thought multitasking was the key to time management, I would love nothing more than doing cardio and weight training at the same time. And you can, but again, you need to examine your goals. If weight loss is your sole concern, then combining cardio within a single workout increases the number of calories you burn.
Research from ACE found that lifting weights first can increase your heart rate by as much as 12 beats per minute during your cardio session. This can make a moderate run feel more intense. Then, when you switch back to weight training, your tired muscles have to work harder to finish the set.
Training for Multiple Goals
Unless you are focused on improving in only one area, you probably have multiple fitness goals. For instance, I want to improve flexibility, endurance, strength, and power. I wouldn’t mind shedding a few pounds either, although I try not to worry about it too much.
To hit all your goals, choose which purpose you want to focus on before you start each training session. For example, do strength training followed by cardio on Monday, a session focused on weight loss on Wednesday, and an endurance session on Friday.