Should I do cardio first as a warm-up or after my strength training?

For most people time is a major concern when creating a workout program. Because of this, many will combine both cardiovascular and weight training in the same session. Generally, putting the cardiovascular first or weight training first will not make a difference. The goal is to get both in. There are some general rules that you can follow to help you decide which should come first for you. The first thing you should know is that it can change every day. This means you should determine which comes first by what you wish to concentrate on that day. If you are planning a harder cardiovascular session that day because you are working on increasing your metabolism for weight loss or trying to build up cardiovascular strength, put the cardiovascular session first and plan on doing light weight training after that. If you are concentrating on building more strength, you might want to do your heavy weight training first and follow it up with a lighter cardiovascular session. If you do the weight training first,  be sure to do a warm-up of some kind first to prepare your muscles for the strength training. The order of your training can change constantly. One day concentrate on your cardio by putting it first and the next day concentrate on your weight training. Another suggestion would be to do some circuit training every few months for a few weeks at a time. This would have you mixing the cardio and weight training in the same session, alternating between the two.

 Most people do cardio (aerobic exercise) first because it is a way to warm up the muscles before strength training.  The purpose of a warm up is to prepare the body by increasing the heart rate and blood flow to the muscles and to bring synovial fluid to the joints. Eight to ten minutes of cardio is sufficient for a warm-up.

So, it is recommended to warm up before weight lifting, but it doesn't matter when you do your longer duration cardio programs.  You can split it up into two or even three shorter periods of time. If you are at home and you want to do 10-15 minutes of cardio in the morning, 10-15 at noon, and the same at night, this is all good. The main thing is that it works into your lifestyle, and you can stay consistent with doing some form of cardio for 30-45 minutes a day on most days of the week.

Wendy Batts

Choosing to perform cardio before or after strength training largely depends on your fitness goals. If you’re like most folks, you’re looking to keep fit and maintain or lose weight. If this is the case, cardio done before or after weight training isn’t going to make a big difference. What you should consider are your own personal preferences. If you just feel better doing a session of cardio before strength training or vice versa, then that’s what you should go with.

You can also decide based on how much fuel you want available in the tank for a particular workout. If you are headed for an intense strength workout, you may want to save the cardio for later so you have more energy available for it. The same follows the other way. If you are going to take a cycling class for example and would like a fresh set of legs then reserve the strength training for later or another day altogether. You can pick and choose what workouts you’d like to be more intense and that can guide whether or not you perform cardio first.

Now, if your primary strength training goal is to generate more power, lift more weight or get bigger muscles, you may want to keep cardio till after, another day or not at all. You’ll want as much energy available as possible for strength workouts of these types. Remember, a general cardio warm up of about 5 minutes is a good idea before any strength workout.

Yusuf Boyd, NASM Elite Trainer
Athletic Training
It depends on your goal. If your goal is just overall health and fitness, try performing circuit training. Circuit training is designed to provide a cardiovascular workout within a strength training session. This is also a great way to jump-start a weight loss program. Just keep in mind that as you progress, your level of fitness will increase and your goal as well as program design will change. When it does just remember what NASM stated above: if you are planning on a harder cardio workout do it first, then perform a light strength training session and vice versa. Doing this will allow you to use your energy where you want it most for that day.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.