Cardio: Before or After Weights? Does it Matter?

There’s a lot of controversy about whether you should do your cardio or weights first, but does doing your cardio before or after weights really matter? This concept didn’t even cross my mind until my family brought it up this weekend, and then I wanted to know for myself, so I thought I’d share what I found.

Cardio Before or After Lifting?

There was an article in The Brazilian Journal of Kinanthropometry and Human Performance that related a study done on the effects of exercise sequence in older women over 50. They were split into two groups (aerobic first or resistance exercise first) and after 12 weeks there was a noticeable increase in back and leg strength in the group doing aerobic exercise first and an increase in leg strength for the group who performed resistance training first. Other than that, there was no difference in flexibility or body fat composition between the two groups. So basically this study said that it didn’t matter which one was performed first when it comes to strength, fat loss, or flexibility; however, it specifically applies to women over 50 years of age.
The next study I read was performed at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and it used 10 males split into 4 groups (run only, resistance only, run-resistance, and resistance-run). The results of this study showed that Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC, which is basically the impact or afterburn of the exercise) is greatest after run-resistance and that running is physiologically harder after resistance exercise. But the EPOC was affected because of resistance training rather than the combination of the two. So, these researchers recommended performing aerobic exercise before resistance exercise when combining them into the same workout.
The last article I found was a dissertation that examined the results of altering the sequence of aerobic and resistance training in regards to energy expenditure and metabolism. A study was performed on 9 males where they participated in 3 randomized exercises. They found that the sequence affected carbohydrate and lipid oxidation only immediately following the exercise but there was no difference between the substrate chosen and the utilization of it during aerobic exercise. This article shows that the order of your workout doesn’t affect whether you burn fats or carbohydrates for your energy during aerobic exercise. So, lifting weights first will not jump start you into burning fat during your cardio workout.

5/365: Weight-ing Patiently
Photo credit: kalebdf

What do All of These Studies Mean? Should You do Cardio Before Weights?

The only conclusion I drew from all of these studies is if you want to burn more calories you should do your cardio before weights. When it comes to increasing strength or the type of fuel you burn (fats or carbs) it doesn’t really matter.

What if I Just Want General Fitness, Can I do Weights Before Cardio?

Sure, you can do your cardio after lifting. My opinion is if you are just trying to be healthy and you want to do your cardio after workouts then do it. I think that you should save the exercise that you enjoy the most for last so you end on a good note. But remember, the study done at Brigham Young University found that running is physiologically harder to do after lifting, so if you are struggling to finish a cardio workout that is normally easy maybe cardio after lifting isn’t for you. You may even think about performing them both at the same time by doing circuit training.

Increasing Muscle Mass: Should I do Cardio After Weights?

When doing research on this topic I read a lot of people saying that if your focus is on increasing your strength then do your cardio after weight training. The idea behind this is that you have more energy to perform a good lifting workout. This seems true; however, if you focus on restoring and replenishing right after you do your cardio then you will still have enough energy to do a productive lifting session. And the study done on the older women didn’t show a relationship between doing strength training first and having strength gains.

Let Me Sum it Up

Doing cardio first will leave you with enough energy to perform a good lifting session and will give you a greater EPOC (so you will burn more throughout the day) than if you lift before your cardio. However, doing cardio before or after a workout is up to you and you should finish with what you enjoy. Remember, you should always do a 5 minute warm-up and cool down no matter which order you decide to workout.


Just trying to stay fit while being a wife and mother.

About Randi

Just trying to stay fit while being a wife and mother.

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