Should You Do Cardio Before or After Weights?

Should You Do Cardio Before or After Weights?

Cardio vs. Weights

If you are starting to plan to work out, you may wonder about cardio vs. weights–which will give you better results? Read on to learn about the benefits of doing cardio before or after weights.

Here’s a breakdown of what each type of exercise is and what it does for you.

Cardio 

Cardio

In general, if your goal is to lose weight, cardio is more effective for weight loss. As described by Healthline, if a person weighs 160 pounds, they can expect to burn around 250 calories for 30 minutes of moderately-paced jogging, as contrasted to between 130-220 calories for the same time of weight training.

But cardio is not just about losing weight. In addition to helping you burn both fat and calories, leading to weight loss, cardio has the following health benefits:

  • It makes your heart stronger.
  • It increases your lung capacity. 
  • It can reduce the risk of heart attack, diabetes, and even some types of cancer.
  • It lowers cholesterol and helps manage high blood pressure.

So, what are some types of cardio exercise? Here are some activities that can be categorized as cardio:

  • Aerobics classes
  • Cardio machines
  • Spinning, biking
  • Dance
  • Walking, running, hiking
  • Swimming
  • Skiing
  • Rowing
  • Playing tennis 
  • Playing basketball

As you can see, they can be done in the gym or as recreational activities. So, you may ask, “how often should I do cardio?” 

Healthline offers this guideline for the frequency of cardio activity:

  1. Half an hour of moderate-intensity cardio activity, for a minimum of five days a week (for a total of 2½  hours per week).
    –OR–
  2. A minimum of 25 minutes of more vigorous cardio or aerobic activity 3 days a week (for a weekly total of 75 minutes).

You may wonder what the best cardio for weight loss is. The following are some high calorie-burning types of cardio: rowing, swimming, jumping rope, stair climbers, and elliptical.

Weight Training

Weight training

Weight training can take a variety of forms, with free weights or weight lifting machines. Its focus is usually on developing the strength and size of muscles. But weight lifting to lose weight is also possible. When you increase your muscle mass, you increase your metabolic rates and burn more calories, helping you to lose weight.

So, you’ve figured out that both cardio and weights can be valuable parts of your workout. But now you may be wondering, should you do cardio before or after weights?

Should You Do Cardio Before or After Lifting?

The Health and Wellness blog at cnet.com makes a good case for cardio after lifting. It’s explained that starting your workout with a steady rate of cardio will get your body into the heart rate zone that starts burning fat. When you switch over to weight lifting after, you’ll benefit from an “afterburn” effect, which helps you continue to burn calories even after you’re done exercising. 

Another reason to do the cardio first is to have more energy for the high-activity cardio, without being tired out by lifting. On the other hand, lifting a light amount of weights before cardio can be part of a warm-up. You can even consider incorporating some very light weights during cardio, such as one-pound ankle weights or hand weights during portions of an aerobics class.

Cardio After Weights

A recent study suggests that the issue of whether to do weights or cardio first is a moot point, indicating that lifting weights and doing cardio on the same day may not be optimum. Instead, it’s advised for a more effective workout to wait 24 hours after strength training before doing cardio. 

This point of view is echoed by the American College of Sports Medicine, which advises that working the same muscle groups with endurance and strength training, one after the other, doesn’t permit enough recovery time. This can lead to poor form and fatigue, which can increase the risk of injury.

The exception to this is perhaps if your goal is to build a specific muscle group, such as your glutes or your calves. In this instance, to recruit enough energy from the muscle group to build bulk, you may want to do the weight training before the treadmill or elliptical. Doing weight training first is important to retain the proper form required to prevent injury. 

What is the best way to combine cardio and weights in your workout routine?

The consensus seems to be cardio before weights for most trainers. What many trainers suggest to allow time for recovery is to pick certain days for upper strength training (arms, chest, and abs) and other days for lower body (legs, glutes). 

Weightlifting with a portion of the body combined with cardio will also increase the pounds you lose from fat. If you do strictly cardio routines, you might lose muscle mass as well as fat.

Should You Run Before or After Workouts?

Running is one of the activities that may change up the recommended order of weights or cardio first. The running enthusiast blog The Wired Runner makes a case for running after lifting weights, explaining that unless you’re looking to improve your running speed or increase your distance, running after you do weights will result in greater physical gains.

Takeaway

If you get a mix of activities in your daily life, including perhaps some sports, along with time in the gym, you may find yourself looking forward to the cardio portion of fitness. Look for places to be more active, intentionally adding challenges like taking the stairs or walking or biking to places instead of taking the car. How often should you do cardio or do you do cardio or weights first should no longer become a dilemma because it will become second nature.

Basically, whether you do cardio before or after workouts may be a matter of personal preference, as long as you are not doing either to an extreme. It may be worth hiring a trainer until you get the routine that works for you. And remember, take time to stretch and warm-up before starting, rehydrate, and listen to your body to know when you need to take time to recover.

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Thomas Alexander

Health and Fitness enthusiast and expert. I enjoy sharing the knowledge I’ve gained through my personal journey with others.

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