Should You Do Cardio Before Or After Lifting Weights?

Combining weight lifting with cardio can increase the benefits of both. The order in which you do them can make a difference though. Find out why.
cardio or weights feature

When I first started doing regular workouts in the gym, I didn’t know much about weightlifting. Just entering the gym was intimidating when it seemed like everyone around me knew exactly what to do when they arrived. They had an order and a mission in the way they worked out. They lifted weights and used the machines with direction, purpose, and, maybe most importantly, with confidence. I knew I needed a strategy to get started, and something I could always do with confidence was run. I entered the gym, got on a treadmill, hit go, and started running. While I ran on the treadmill, it gave me the opportunity to look around the large, open gym floor and observe how others were using the free weights and assist machines. While running, I could spend all the time I needed to just pick one or two things to try after running on the treadmill.

It was this method of first getting onto a treadmill at the gym that got me started with a specific workout routine. That is, because I was comfortable with running and not yet comfortable with weightlifting, I’d always start my workout with a run followed by easing into a weightlifting routine. I continued doing things in this order out of a habit that was created by my initial routine, and it wasn’t until some time later that I questioned if there was value to doing significant amounts of cardio before or after lifting weights.

Benefits Of Cardio

Woman on a treadmill at the gym

There are many excellent benefits of doing cardio as part of your workout, which include:

  • Keeps your heart in shape and healthy
  • Burns extra calories
  • Increased stamina
  • Ward off viral illnesses
  • Manage chronic conditions
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced levels of bad cholesterol
  • Raised levels of good cholesterol

Cardio makes your heart work harder, pumping blood through your body more quickly. This consistent circulation provides more oxygen to your muscles, and supplying more oxygen to your body makes it function better. While cardio doesn’t specifically build your muscles, it is a necessary component of a comprehensive workout because it strengthens your heart and increases blood flow. People who want excellent aerobic fitness should do cardio every day.

Benefits Of Lifting Weights

woman lifting weights bicep workout

There are also many excellent benefits of doing weight training as part of your workout, which include:

  • Increased strength improves your ability to do everyday activities
  • Help you manage or lose weight
  • Increase metabolism to help burn more calories
  • Protect your joints from injury
  • Lower your risk of heart disease
  • Improved bone health
  • Decreased risk of injury
  • A tighter, firmer physique

Weightlifting isn’t just about bulking up or building muscle. It provides many health benefits, some of them like cardio, but some even greater benefits that you cannot get from doing cardio alone. When you have a consistent lifting routine, you can plan on a healthier, stronger body and brain.

Knowing that workouts, including both cardio and lifting weights, are important, does it matter whether you’re doing cardio before lifting weights or if lifting weights before cardio can give you an advantage?

Does the order in which you do cardio and weights matter?

Yes, the order matters, but whether one order is better than another depends on your specific goals. So, what are the specific benefits of each?

Benefits Of Doing Cardio Before Lifting Weights

woman riding on an exercise bike

Doing cardio before weight training isn’t “wrong.” It’s just that the order in which you do cardio will potentially give you a different result than doing weight training prior to cardio would. Cardio before weight training will be an optimal choice if you want to increase endurance. This is because performing cardio takes energy from the energy stores needed to sustain aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, and performing cardio pre-weight training enhances cardio endurance.

However, as you can imagine, if you’re using those energy stores before a weightlifting routine, you will have less energy stored up to invest in lifting weights. The result will alter your ability to lift weights; more specifically, you most likely won’t be able to lift weights as heavy as you could prior to doing any kind of cardio or endurance exercise. If your goal is to increase endurance, doing cardio before lifting weights is an excellent choice. Benefit include:

  • Prioritize heart health
  • Burns more calories per minute
  • Helpful for weight loss
  • Enhanced mood

Benefits of Lifting Weights Before Doing Cardio

Mature Woman Lifting Weights in Gym Setting

Most fitness experts will advise you to do cardio after weight training because doing cardio first uses up much of the energy source necessary for strength training. Doing cardio first will also fatigue the muscles before their most strenuous activity of lifting weights. Not only does doing cardio first use up the energy storage necessary for a productive weightlifting routine, but it also uses up brain power. If you prioritize weightlifting over cardio, you can focus more on lifting heavier weights and lifting correctly. Benefits include:

  • Better for building muscle and strength
  • Helpful for fat loss
  • Reserve energy for lifting heavier and longer

Important Takeaway: Cardio And Weights Are An Excellent Combination

The combination of weightlifting and cardio has dual benefits, and incorporating both into your workout multiplies the benefits of each. For most people, lifting weights before doing cardio is the best combination, but ultimately, it depends on your specific goals.

Read Next:

Can Lifting Weights Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

Weightlifting For Age-Related Muscle Loss

6 Ways Strength Training Reverses Aging and Beats Cardio