Cardio Before Or After Lifting? Find Out What Works Best

If you are a gym junkie like me, you definitely want to reap the most out of your workout sessions by finding the perfect workout routine. In search for this, one of the most sought after answers is whether to do cardio before or after lifting.

For any strength training exercise to be successful, incorporating cardio exercises is mandatory. That much you know. What you are after is how and when to do this. To ease your confusion, we discuss both methods including the pros and cons and come up with the perfect concoction of the two.

If you are serious about attaining your gym goals with precision, I highly advise you read on.


First, A Little Background Information

Cardio exercises when done lightly (for instance jogging), result in aerobic metabolism. This means that your muscles are slowly supplied with oxygen during the exercise hence less muscle fatigue. Therefore, aerobic exercises can be performed for a long time making them most ideal for cardiovascular health.

On the other hand, high-intensity cardio (such as splinting) and strength training are forms of anaerobic exercises which result in depleting the muscles of oxygen for a short period of time. This makes them most suitable for muscle building and endurance training. Having this information is vital in tweaking your workout to attain your goals by deciding if cardio will come first or last.

Beginning With Cardio

Studies have shown that aerobic exercises performed before weight training result in elevation of testosterone levels throughout your workout, especially for men. This means that you will have sufficient energy to carry you through the sets and reps of strength training.

Pre-workout cardio also jumpstarts your body and muscles before embarking on strenuous weight lifting exercises. This results in prevention of muscle pulls or injuries during the weight lifting process. On top of that, cardio before lifting leads to an increase in your heart rate and maintains it throughout strength training. This increases your metabolic rate resulting in a high rate of fat loss.

The flip side of starting with cardio, especially high intensity or prolonged cardio activity, is increased muscle fatigue. This negatively impacts your performance when it comes to the number of sets and reps you are able to execute and may result in maintaining poor stance and form while lifting. The outcome is attaining very little from your strength workout, or worse; increased chances of injuries which pose a threat to your health.

Cardio After Lifting

Jumping right into weight lifting will allow you to perform your exercises correctly. Continuous strength training in correct form and intensity will eventually reward you with a banging body and overall body strength.

If after weightlifting you still have the energy to go into cardio, then your chances of burning fat are increased as compared to doing cardio first. Why? Well, simply put, anaerobic exercises which involve strength, training are most efficient at burning fat as compared to cardio hence starting with lifting will not only result in fat loss but also lead to replacement of fat with muscle.

The problem is, performing the naturally intense weight lifting exercises normally leaves you feeling very tired not to mention sore. Therefore, the chances of completing strength training and shifting right to cardio are very slim. Doubtful? Take a typical leg day for example; after a successful leg workout, all the muscles below your waist are screaming in pain and to be quite honest, walking is a challenge leave alone a full cardio workout. Hence cardio last is very rarely opted for.

Making The Right Choice

Cardio Lifting Weights

All said and done, deciding whether to do cardio before lifting or after comes down to two things; balance and your workout goals. You need to balance out high-intensity cardio with light lifting or go hard on the weight while you invest in a light cardio session.

If your intention is to build muscle and strength, pairing light cardio with an intense weight lifting session will be your best alternative. Start your workout with not more than 15 minutes of cardio, then move on to strength training. For example, skipping rope or a 15 minutes jog beforehand will activate your muscles without depleting your body of the energy it needs to execute strength exercises correctly. This plus a good rest and diet will set you on a path to a sexy, toned body in no time.

On the other hand, if you wish to lose fat and are not a fun of muscle, starting with weight lifting will get you there faster. Start with a 45 minutes workout then finish off with twenty minutes of cardio. If this is a challenge, you can alternate cardio and strength exercises throughout your workout. If you still find it hard to accomplish this, separate the two workouts and set aside a day for pure cardio training. This is guaranteed to get you results faster.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of your goals, cardio and strength training have to exist together. There is no defined answer for whether cardio should be before or after strength training. It is up to you to find a combination of the two that suits you best. In case you still have unanswered questions about this topic, feel free to leave a comment and all will be ironed out.

Nancy Moore

Hi, everyone! My name is Nancy Moore and I am the founder and creator of Fitnessgrams. I created Fitnessgrams to be a haven for people looking to get fit, boost their health, lose weight, or improve their well-being. Here you will find experiences, workouts, information from the experts, healthy living tips, and tools to find well-being and balance.

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