There’s one common question which bothers a lot of people who workout often: should you do cardio before or after weights?
There are a number of factors which may influence this decision, all of which I touch upon in this post:
1. What are your primary fitness goals?
2. Is doing cardio before or after weight training better for weight loss?
3. Convenience, safety, and overall workout experience.
4. Your personal preference.
Let’s talk about all of these factors…
Cardio Before or After Weight Training – Goal Focused Workouts
Your main fitness goal may play a big role in determining how you structure your workout and whether cardio or weight training comes first.
The reason is that your energy levels decrease as your workout progresses. As you do more exercises and work, you naturally grow a bit more tired and your strength diminishes. This means that you can work the hardest at the beginning of your workout. So, it stands to reason that you would work on your main goal at the start of your training session.
So, if you’re getting ready for a 10K run, you would do cardio first and supplement it with weight lifting. If you want to build more muscle mass, you will likely do your lifting exercises first and end up with cardio.
Which Is Better For Weight Loss?
I found 3 studies which examined how the order in which you do cardio and weight lifting affects EPOC (Excess postexercise oxygen consumption) which signifies how your workout changes your metabolism. Basically, it determines how well your body uses up calories after a workout has been completed.
The first study made by the Human Performance Research Center, Brigham Young University in Utah, looked at the affects of running before and after resistance training. It found that EPOC was greater when you run before doing resistance training than the other way around. The study ended with a recommendation to perform aerobic exercises before any resistance training.
However, the next two studies came to a different conclusion:
One study, done in Portugal, examined the affects of doing cardio before and after weights on oxygen consumption during and after the workout session. This time cycling was the cardio workout examined and not running. The study found no significant difference in oxygen consumption when you train in a different order. It didn’t matter whether cardio came first or second.
The second study, also done in Portugal, examined the duration and magnitude of EPOC when several young men did cardio before and after weight training. The results clearly showed that there was no difference in the duration or level of EPOC regardless of the order in which these men trained. Therefore, this study found, there is no reason to favor cardio or resistance training as the first exercise element in your workouts. It seems that for weight loss purposes, this would not make such a big difference.
Cardio After Weights – Safety And Convenience
Now we get to my personal preferences and what I recommend that you do in terms of safety and convenience. I recommend doing your weight training before cardio for a number of reasons:
1. You’re more focused and alert at the beginning of your workout. This is when your form will be easier to keep. Form plays a greater role in weight lifting than it does in cardio. You don’t need a lot of concentration to work on an elliptical or a treadmill. You do need to be focused when you lift heavy weights. You need proper form when you lift weights to achieve a good growth and avoid injury. This is why I prefer doing my strength training early on.
2. One thing which cardio is definitely good for is to make you sweat. After a 40 minute run, most people are drenched. Try to lie down on a workout bench or sit on a strength machine with a soaked shirt. It will be very uncomfortable, not to mention a case of really bad gym etiquette. Even if you change your shirt, you’re still pretty wet, sticky, and may even smell less well than you usually do.
3. I find that doing cardio after weights helps me to relieve my muscles which have worked hard during the lifting exercises. The cardio gets a lot of the tension out of my body.
So, for safety and convenience, I recommend doing weights before cardio.
Your Personal Preference Counts
The question of whether you should do cardio before or after weights is something which is a personal decision. Yes, there are reasons to favor one order over the other, but, at the end of the day, you are the one who has to do the actual workouts. So, choose what is right for you and go with it. As long as you train hard, you will see results.