Should You Do Cardio Before Weights? – Does It Really Matter?

Girl Running in Sunset

I have been at the gym before doing my down cardio and I have seen tons of people go spend 30 minutes to an hour on the treadmill or elliptical and then go off and do their weight training. Then there are the people that do their weightlifting then they go do their cardio workout.

Which way is the correct way? Should you do cardio before weights? or Should you do weights before cardio? Does this even really matter? I mean cardio is cardio right?

For some people like myself getting some cardio into my workout routine is just quite an accomplishment all on its own. Why does it matter if I am doing it before or after my workout?

Well, the answer isn’t quite simple and quick like “you should do cardio before your weight lifting”. It all really depends on your goals as an individual.Cardio running

Personally, for me, I do my cardio after my weight lifting. Occasionally I would mix it up and throw some sprints in between my weight lifting sets, but for the most part, I would always do my weight lifting before my cardio. I mean come on think about it, lifting anything heavy is already a task. Now Let’s go on the treadmill or on a jog for 2 miles and come back and lift something heavy. You’re going to be gassed out after your cardio workout.

But, there is no true “correct” way, and each way that you go about ordering your workout will just end up affecting the way your body processes the workout whether your goal was just fat loss in general, or you were trying to gain some muscle mass.

Let me explain.

On A Perfect Day

The most ideal thing to do when it comes to cardio and weightlifting is to keep them completely separate. Whether this means you wake up early in the morning and do your cardio, and do your weight lifting in the evening. Or keeping your cardio and weight lifting on separate days altogether.

Doing it this way makes sure that your energy levels are full at each workout and you can give it your all whether it be your cardio or the weightlifting that you are doing.

BUT, most of us have busy schedules and between working, doing the laundry, dropping off/picking up the kids, cooking dinner, homework, school, (If I keep going with this we would be here all day) you honestly only have time to go to the gym once a day.

So how do you proceed? I want you to stop really quick and think about what your true goals are from working out. Is it because you are trying to lose weight? or is it because you just watched the new Avengers movie and thought dang I need to get big like Thor. Your goal here is what could help make your decision on whether to do cardio or weights first so think carefully.

Whichever the reason, Let’s proceed.

When And Why You Should Do Cardio First

If your goal is to burn more calories for the purpose of fat loss then you should do your cardio first. This way you can put most of your energy towards your cardio workout, and then get your weight lifting routine in afterward. It is easier for most people to get a solid good cardio routine in when they are fresh. So this is a good way to go about ordering it if fat loss is your ending goal.

This is also a good way to go about it if you’re just looking to be healthy and physically fit. Which essentially is what happens when you are burning more calories than you ingest and start burning fat.

This is only one part of the equation if your goal is fat loss. Dietary changes are a must if it is going to be effective. Unless you are planning on working out to the point where the amount of calories you have burned working out overtakes any number of calories that you eat. But Let’s face it one, we are in this dilemma of doing cardio or weight lifting first because we have no time, and two we are not professional athletes and more than likely not be able to work out to the point of burning that many calories so we don’t have to worry about that being an option.

Moving on.

When And Why You Should Do Weight Lifting First

If your goals are to get big gains for your muscles and get toned and get bigger muscles then weight lifting should be the first thing you do. If you are looking for muscle gains then your going to want to be able to give your full energy focus towards making sure you are keeping your form correct so you lower the risk of getting injured, and you are going to want to be able to lift as much as you could and as heavy as you would like to be able to complete your routine.Girl weight lifting

If you do a full cardio routine right before you go try to do your weight lifting as hard as you would if you were trying to gain muscle then you would feel fatigued and not be able to lift as heavy or as much as you normally would be able to.

If you are like myself and have done cardio for an hour before weightlifting, and then went over to the weights and tried to do your full normal weight lifting routine then you know what I mean. You’re muscles just feel way more fatigued.

When you are lifting weights the main source of energy is glycogen (a stored form of carbs). Whenever you do cardio you deplete your glycogen levels so making your weight lifting harder after a long cardio workout.

So if your ultimate goal is to build muscle then do your weight lifting first.

If You’re Goal is Uncertain

If you’re working out just for the sake of working out and you have no true goals, I still personally recommend doing your weight lifting before your cardio.

Because honestly if you woke up one morning and you had two things on your to-do list. One: take mattress upstairs, Two: do daily 2-mile jog. Would you honestly tell me you are going to go jog before you pulled that mattress upstairs? I know I would want the most energy for dragging the mattress upstairs because the thing is heavy. It would also just make more logical sense that way. I don’t want to lift anything heavy when I am tired, I’m pretty sure you would feel the same way about that too.

Conflicting Information…Duh Duh Duhhhhhh

There are some studies that show that the opposite of what most of us believe is true. One study showed that there are different genes and signaling pathways that are activating when you are doing a particular workout. Therefore, if you were doing cardio as your last workout, then the genes and signaling pathways that are normally active during your cardio session will be the ones that are more active. If you were doing your weight training last then the genes and signaling pathways that are normally active during your weight lifting session will be the ones more active.

So doing your cardio routine after your weight lifting routine is suppressing the anabolic effect that your body had created while you were weight lifting to a certain extent, along with increasing the rate in which protein is being broken down. Which means whenever you end your routine on cardio there is a chance that you could break down some muscle mass if the rate of protein synthesis is less than the rate of protein breakdown.

On the flip side of things doing weights last allows the anabolic effect that is involved directly with protein synthesis and muscle growth to be the lasting effect that you normally have after your workout.

Who Is Right? What Should You Do?

Well, there really is not true right or wrong answer here. New studies come out every single day, sometimes they contradict each other. Everyone is also entitled to their own opinion.

At the end of the day through your decision should be based on your goals and what you are comfortable doing. If you feel better doing weights first then do weights first. If you feel more comfortable doing cardio first then do your cardio first. If you want to mix it up and do both at the same time and alternate between each one you could do that as well.

Do you do cardio first or weight lifting first? Let me know below!

As always if you have any questions, comments or concerns just leave them in the comments below and I will try to get back to you as soon as I can. Have a great day! Happy Lifting!





About Tony 40 Articles
Tony is a California based health and wellness writer who has a passion for weightlifting, fitness, and nutrition. You can find him frequently publishing on when he is not at the gym working out, or at the movie theater watching the latest Marvel movie.


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