Cardio: Before or after weights?

When it comes to exercise, there are a lot of different opinions on the best way to do things. Some people believe that you should do cardio before weights, while others think that you should do weights before cardio. So which is the right way to go?

Well, it all depends on your individual goals and preferences. How boring of an answer, but let’s explore which way is going to be best for you. 

Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of doing your cardio before or after your weight training. You’ll also learn tips on how to make the most of your workout routine!

Table of Contents

Tired woman with hands down resting on cycling machine

1. Why is Cardio Important?

Cardio is any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up and makes you breathe harder. Technically that means weight training can be cardio too, but don’t get too bogged down in the details. 

It is important because it helps to improve your cardiovascular health, which is the health of your heart and blood vessels. Cardio exercise can also help to burn calories and promote weight loss. Unfortunately, cardio doesn’t make your muscles grow and when you lose weight using cardio, you can lose both muscle and fat.

Lowering your heart rate, and blood pressure as well as improved breathing is important for exercise because it means you can exercise for longer. This increase in length isn’t just about time, your body will also use more of its own body fats as fuel rather than only carbs. 

This has a range of benefits including lowering fats in the blood, cholesterol levels and better using the nutrients your body is fed. 

2. Why is Weight Training Important?

Weight training is a type of exercise that uses resistance to build muscle. It is important because it helps to improve your strength and bone density. Weight training can also help to burn calories and promote weight loss. 

The cool thing about weight training is that it tones your body by growing muscle and dropping fat. The important thing about weight training is that the more muscle you have, the bigger your training sessions’ volume will be, and the more energy you will burn. 

Weight training is important for exercise because it helps to improve your strength and muscle size. By lifting weights you are actually breaking down your muscle fibers which then grow back stronger and bigger. This not only helps you to lift heavier weights in the gym, but it also helps you to perform everyday activities with ease. The long term effect of this is that you need to increase your food to sustain this, meaning that life is about eating more of the good stuff, not less. That sounds like a win to me! 

Overweight black woman lifting dumbbell in gym

3. Benefits of Cardio BEFORE Weights

There are actually a few!

  1. It helps to warm up your muscles and get your heart rate going. This can help you to avoid injury when you start lifting weights. 
  2. Cardio before weights can help to burn more calories and promote weight loss. 
  3. Doing cardio before weights may help to improve your performance during your cardio session.

4. Benefits of Cardio AFTER Weights

If you are doing strength workouts, then doing cardio after these workouts will reduce the chance that the sessions will compromise your strength or performance in the gym. 

If you are just doing muscle building there may be a small impact, however, don’t get too disheartened. You likely won’t notice the difference for years. 

The body sees both of these activities as a bit of a stress and recovers from them as long as you’re matching the needs with the appropriate amount of food.

Woman in black sleeveless crop top and white leggings using a butterfly machine in front of a mirror

5. How to make the Most of your Workout Routine

Both Cardio and Weight Training are stresses to the body, though they are different stresses.

The amount of stress from each will really depend on which one you are doing more of and to what intensity. As long as they have some form of change (e.g. reps, sets, weight, frequency) you will be able to tolerate them if you don’t try to stack too much into your training.

For example, if you were to do some slow cycling and some weight training that isn’t strength training, these two exercises are using the body in opposite ways and therefore your body will be able to tolerate them better. 

This is unlike training both Back Squats and Hill Sprints as they are going to be causing the same type of stress to the body.  

At the end of the day, when it comes to training: Do what you enjoy and think about how your body is allowed to recover. Consider what your whole week looks like rather than the order of how you do weights or cardio within your smaller session. 


Disclaimer: if you are an athlete, small factors like these will matter more for your performance. Contact me directly to learn more about how this impacts you. 

Weight Training Handbook and Workout Plan for Women

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