Should You Do Cardio After Weight Training?

Business staminaYou want to get the most benefits from the time you spend at the gym – and most people wrestle with the question of whether to do weights before cardio or cardio before weights to maximize calorie burn and get more defined.

Which is better?

Is Lifting Weights Before Cardio Better?
It really depends on what research you look at. In one study, Japanese researchers found that doing cardio after weight training burned more fat during the first fifteen minutes of a cardio session than doing cardio before weights. Fat-burning is the goal of most people, so you might conclude it’s better to lift weights first.

Not so fast. Another study carried out at Brigham Young University found that men who ran before weight training had a greater “afterburn” effect than men who lifted weights before running. Afterburn refers to the additional calories the body burns while recovering from a workout. With intense exercise, a person can burn additional calories for hours after a training session.

So, who’s right? No one knows – so it really boils down to what you’re trying to achieve. If your main priority is to burn fat and slim down, and not to build muscle, it’s better to do cardiovascular exercise first. If you do weights before cardio your legs will be fatigued, which will make running and other forms of cardio more difficult. Chances are you won’t work quite as hard as you would if you had started with cardio.

If its muscle definition you’re after, do weights before cardio – to ensure you’re giving it your best effort. If you’re trying to build bulk, do shorter cardio sessions since longer sessions increase cortisol levels, which can break down muscle.

Weight Training before Cardio: The Bottom Line?

There really is no right or wrong answer to this age-old question – it depends on which is a greater priority for you. Try mixing it up. Do cardio before weights during some sessions and weights before cardio for others. Throw in some circuit training too. This will ensure you don’t reach a plateau – or get bored.


Muscle and Fitness – Her. January/February 2011. Page 81.
J. Strength Cond. Research. 2005 May: 19(2): 332-337.


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Does Exercise Order Impact Strength Gains?


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