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Should You Do Cardio Before or After Lifting Weights?

A personal trainer settles the debate.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

When it comes to structuring your workout routine, the order in which you perform cardio and weightlifting can significantly impact your results. Both forms of exercise offer unique benefits, but understanding the optimal sequencing can help you maximize your efforts in the gym. Let's delve into the debate: Should you do cardio before or after lifting weights?

When it comes to whether to do cardio before or after lifting weights, it ultimately boils down to personal preference and fitness goals. Both approaches offer unique benefits, and the optimal sequencing depends on factors such as energy levels, workout intensity, and individual preferences. Experiment with different strategies to determine what works best for you and helps you achieve your goals effectively.

Keep in mind that consistency and dedication to your workout routine are key to success. Remember to listen to your body and adjust your routine accordingly to maximize results and enjoyment in your fitness journey.

The benefits of cardiovascular exercise:

fit woman running outdoors, concept of best type of exercise for weight loss

Cardiovascular exercise, often referred to as "cardio," is any activity that elevates your heart rate and increases oxygen circulation throughout the body. This includes activities like running, cycling, swimming, and using cardio machines like treadmills and ellipticals. Cardio is excellent for improving cardiovascular health, increasing endurance, burning calories, and promoting fat loss.

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The benefits of lifting weights:

woman lifting dumbbells for dancer arms workout

Weightlifting, or resistance training, involves lifting weights or using resistance bands to build strength and muscle mass. This type of exercise helps increase lean muscle mass, boost metabolism, improve bone density, and enhance overall body composition. Additionally, lifting weights can lead to functional strength gains, making daily activities easier to perform.

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Should you do cardio before or after lifting weights?

fit middle-aged man doing indoor cycling, concept of daily cardio workouts for men over 40

The order in which you perform cardio and weightlifting depends on your fitness goals and personal preferences. Here are the key considerations for each approach:

Cardio before lifting weights:

  • Increased fatigue: Performing cardio before lifting weights can lead to increased fatigue, potentially impacting your strength and performance during lifting sessions.
  • Enhanced warm-up: Cardio serves as an effective warm-up, increasing blood flow to muscles and preparing the body for resistance training.
  • Fat loss: Some individuals prefer doing cardio before weightlifting to deplete glycogen stores and prioritize fat burning during their lifting session.

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Cardio after lifting weights:

  • Preservation of energy: Lifting weights before cardio allows you to preserve energy for more intense resistance training exercises.
  • Strength and muscle growth: Prioritizing weightlifting ensures you have the energy and strength to lift heavier weights, leading to greater muscle growth and strength gains.
  • Post-workout fat burn: Performing cardio after weightlifting can enhance fat burning during the post-exercise recovery period, known as the "afterburn" effect.

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Considerations for your workout routine:

woman doing barbell back squats, resistance training exercises to transform your body after 30

Similar to determining whether to perform cardio before or after your weight-lifting session, building your workout routine requires a customized approach based on your unique fitness goals, schedule/lifestyle, and personal preferences.

  • Fitness goals: If your primary goal is to build muscle and strength, consider prioritizing weightlifting before cardio. Alternatively, if you're focused on cardiovascular endurance or weight loss, you may prefer doing cardio first.
  • Time and convenience: Some individuals may find it more convenient to complete cardio and weightlifting in the same session, regardless of the order.
  • Personal preference: Ultimately, the best approach is the one that aligns with your preferences and allows you to enjoy your workout routine consistently.
Tyler Read, BSc, CPT
Tyler Read is a personal trainer and has been involved in health and fitness for the past 15 years. Read more about Tyler