Should I Be Doing Cardio BEFORE or AFTER Strength Training?


The gyms are opening back up and you’re about to start your new training program. You know, just trying to drop a few pounds after quarantine and get back your general physical fitness.

Chances are, you’ll be doing workouts that include a mix of resistance training and cardiovascular exercise to maximize your bodily benefits. But which one should you do first: weights? Or cardio?

There have been claims that lifting weights prior to doing cardiovascular exercise can result in increased fat loss due to shifts in energy metabolism. According to this theory, resistance training “uses up” all of the glycogen stored in your muscles, so your body has no choice but to immediately tap into fat storage to fuel your subsequent cardio session. 

This idea of catapulting the body into fat-burning mode is actually somewhat supported in the literature, such as in this study (Kang et al, 2009) which showed increased levels of fat-oxidation in subjects who performed high-intensity resistance training prior to aerobic exercise, as well as in this study (Goto et al, 2007) which showed signs of increased lipolysis as well as fat oxidation in a similar setting. 

Whether these acute responses translate to significantly increased fat loss over time has yet to be seen, and just because something works in the lab doesn’t mean it’ll be the perfect solution for you. I encourage you to make a decision not only based on the research, but also based on your own priorities, preferences, and goals.

Aside from increasing your chances of fat loss, here are 2 things you should consider:

  • Do you have specific performance goals? In other words, do you want to improve your ability to lift weights and get stronger MORE than you want to improve your cardiovascular endurance and aerobic capacity? Or perhaps vice versa? If so, you should start your workout with whichever exercise modality more closely aligns with your goal. 

Moderate amounts of cardio and lifting have been shown not to significantly interfere with each other when both are implemented in a training program; in fact, it is possible to improve performance in both realms-- a concept known as the “concurrent training effect.” But at higher intensities and when performed within the same workout, this concept may not hold up. Think about it this way: you likely won’t PR your back squat after running a 5k, and you likely won’t get your best 5k time if you max out on squats first. This makes logical sense and has also been backed up by research (Kang & Ratamess, 2014).

By keeping this concept in mind, you’ll be able to hit the weights or the treadmill while you’re fresh vs. when you’re fatigued later on in the workout, allowing you to progressively overload the movements more efficiently and see more progress in less time.

  • Do you dread one of these forms of exercise more? Do you genuinely want to fit your cardio in but find yourself constantly skipping out on it because you find it difficult or boring? In this case, you may want to start your workout with cardio. The same applies to someone who may not be crazy about lifting weights but knows that it’s good for them. You may find it helpful to start with the movements that are out of your comfort zone so you can “get them over with” at the beginning before moving on to what you really like to do in the gym. As you practice building this habit over time and callus your mind, you may find yourself shifting into an “I get to do X” mindset rather than “I have to do X.” 

Remember, what works for a group of research subjects, a fitness influencer, your best friend, or a world record-breaking powerlifter may not necessarily be the perfect solution for YOU. I hope this video cleared up some confusion and helped you make a more informed decision. As always, drop your questions below and tag a friend who YOU think needs to hear this!

~*Test your knowledge*~

  1. True or False: high-intensity resistance exercise has been shown to increase fat oxidation during subsequent moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.
  2. If your training goal is to PR your deadlift, with which modality should you begin your session?
    1. 100m sprint repeats
    2. 10K stationary bike ride
    3. 2000m row for time
    4. Mobility and stability drills relevant to the deadlift
  3. True or False: cardio always kills your gains. 

Train. Eat. Live HYBRID.

Get access to our world class training program library that’s delivered life changing gains and podium finishes for thousands of people.

Take your training and nutrition to the next level, get a personalized nutrition plan and a dedicated coach in your corner, helping you navigate your nutrition journey. 

Join Team HYBRID

50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.