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Should Cardio Come Before or After Lifting Weights?


Once upon a time, there was a classic conundrum: weights or cardio? It’s the red pill and blue pill of the fitness community. There have been many people in fitness circles telling people that they can only choose between one or the other, as one can significantly bring down the other. Because of that, cardio enthusiasts stuck to what they knew best, and weightlifters stuck to their guns and focused on building their guns.

Cardio Come Before or After Lifting Weights

Now that we are in a more enlightened age of fitness, we know that it’s not all that black and white. Cardio is good for your health, and I’m not talking just about weight management and increasing your fitness or testosterone levels. It’s good for your heart, keeps your arteries clear, and greatly strengthens your endurance. Someone who only focuses on aerobic exercises may not be able to lift the same things a weightlifter can, but someone who concentrates on only weightlifting will find themselves getting winded far more easily during a run. The last thing you want is to run down to the end of the street and find yourself huffing and puffing.

So now that we’ve established that cardio is important and that you should do cardio even while bulking, we now arrive to conundrum #2: should you do cardio before or after you lift weights?

The answer is a little complex and isn’t all that cut and dry, but because “it’s complicated” isn’t really a satisfying answer, I do have my own belief as to which order is better.

So, if you’re curious to know, I’ll give you the information you’ll need to understand how cardio affects weights (and vice versa), as well as how you should decide and my own opinion on what’s better.


Weights or Cardio: Which Comes First?

Lifting Weights or Cardio

It’s a tricky question, that’s for sure. Not only does it depend on who you ask, but it also depends on who you are.

There are several factors you have to consider about your own physical fitness when deciding what comes first: lifting or cardio. For example: what’s your fitness level? What are your athletic goals, both long-term and short-term? How much experience do you really have with exercise? How much time do you devote to working out each day? These are the questions you have to consider if you want to get the best out of your workouts.

However, if you had to twist my arm and force me to choose, I’d say this is what you need to shoot for: get your weights in first, then go for cardio. Why? I’ll give you the rundown.


Why You Should Lift First, Then Do Cardio Second

Lift weight first before doing cardio

So, why the favoritism for weightlifting? Well, it’s actually for your own safety.

Weightlifting requires a lot of external loading, such as dumbbells, barbells, and resistance bands. You are far more likely to injure yourself using these than you are on, say, a rowing machine or a treadmill. This is why I will always suggest not doing strength training unless you’re up, full of energy, and your muscles have fully recovered. If you do strength training while you’re fatigued, you are only increasing the risk of injury.

By doing cardio beforehand, you’re fatiguing yourself, which can lead to some bad results. Because of this, I highly suggest that you lift first before cardio. Not to mention, you just won’t be able to lift as much as you would if you’d started with weights. Now, exceptions can be made, such as having an extremely light cardio routine before you go for strength training. AKA, warming up, something you should always be doing no matter what you start with.

Just like cardio before weightlifting has its downsides, however, so does weightlifting before cardio.

Weightlifting before cardio will, unfortunately, hamper some of your aerobic performance. You’re going to notice a reduction in power, endurance, and speed, causing you to get less cardio training than you would if you’d started out with it. Because of this, many are suggesting to instead do cardio and strength training on different days instead of in the same session.

The good thing to note, though, is that lifting weights before cardio will not significantly increase your chances of being injured.


The Third Option: HIIT

Man doing HIIT

All of what I’ve explained is if you want to do cardio and weightlifting separately. However, some of you may know that there are ways to do both at the same time.

If you’re looking to get both your strength training and your cardio training going at once, you can go for practices such as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or circuit training. These can be pretty intense for some people who are looking for a simple experience.

However, you also shouldn’t rely solely on these to get your strength training and cardio training in. I always suggest this if you’re only doing it 2 or 3 times a week. If you do it too often, your body won’t have enough time to recover between sessions, and remember what I said about strength training when fatigued? Always a bad idea.


Still Unsure on What to Do First?

That’s completely understandable. If you’re new to exercise, or you have no familiarity with the other side of the fitness isle, there’s no need to fret.

Remember that not everything is cut and dry. If you’re having a hard time evaluating what is best for you because you may not have a lot of experience in the gym or cardio or weights, then I highly recommend seeing a personal trainer. They are professionals who will be able to take in your own personal situation and help you figure out what’s best in your case, including setting up a proper routine. Once you feel as though you’ve got enough experience to decide for yourself, feel free to change it up.

All of our bodies are different, but we all strive for the same goal: working for those gains, and having a good time doing it. Just remember to stay safe and stay hydrated.