Should You Do Cardio or Weights First? Science Has the Answer

One of the age old questions of exercise: Do I jump on a treadmill first? Or do I lift weights first? 

If you dare to do a Google search, you’ll see far too many search results, each with a different answer. Hasn’t science concluded which is more important?

Yes, studies have been around for years concluding which one you need to do first.

Let’s take a look at what the most popular studies say and how you can apply it to your exercise program.

Keep it Simple: Weights or Cardio?

Not so fast. We do have an answer for you but you need to answer one question first.

The debate of weights vs. cardio isn’t as simple as a universal answer. Each body is different and more importantly, not everyone has the same fitness goals.

Before you can decide whether you need to run or lift first, you need to figure out what your fitness goals are. So let’s break down the answer based on the two most common fitness goals: fat loss vs. muscle building.

Want to Lose Weight?

If your goal is weight loss then you should be performing more cardiovascular training than weight training, at least in the beginning. There’s a catch though: Cardio first isn’t as simple as walking for 45 minutes on a treadmill. Low intensity, long duration cardio is outdated and proven not to be as effective as high intensity, short duration training.

Commonly known as H.I.I.T., this type of cardio is fast paced, intense, and a time saver. This is what your workouts should be based on if you want to slim down.

H.I.I.T. 101

Building a H.I.I.T. workout is one of the easiest things you can do. This type of training involves taking several bodyweight-based exercises and performing them in rapid succession with no break until you’ve completed the list. After your break, start again. Repeat the workout 3 to 5 times. It’s intense and it works! Here’s a sample workout to get you started.

Jump Squats: 10

Push-ups: 10

Jumping Lunges: 15

Pull-ups: 10

Mountain Climbers: 20

Superman: 10

Burpees: 5

Want to Build Muscle?

If you’ve got muscle on your mind, then it’s iron you should be starting with. A light warm-up on the treadmill or elliptical is okay but you don’t want to be putting a great deal of your effort into a cardio workout before weight lifting.


The more energy you expend on cardio, the less energy you’ll have for your weight lifting workout. Muscle is built by your body fighting against the resistance from the weights you’re holding. If you can’t push your muscles outside their comfort zone then you aren’t going to see the results you want.

Cardio workouts use up precious energy in the form of ATP stores. These ATP stores are the primary energy source for your muscles. That’s how you’re able to push past your limits and trigger muscular hypertrophy. Muscular hypertrophy is another way to say muscle GROWTH.

So if you want to build muscle, cardio should follow a weight lifting workout. The only exception would be a specific day just for cardio.

Tell Us What You Think!

We want to hear about your results?

How successful were you with losing weight when doing cardio first?

How much muscle did you gain by saving cardio for the end?

Let us know in the comments below.

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