Cardio or Weights First?

It’s a great question and chances are you’ve asked that question before. I know we hear it a lot from gym goers of all levels.

So, which one is it? Do you do cardio or weights first in your workout?

Well, the answer is…it depends! (Shocking!)

However, here are a few key points to consider to figure out which approach is best for YOU and YOUR goals!

Weights before cardio:


When you weight train, your muscles are working hard and you’re depleting your glycogen stores. Your body has to “burn” through its stored glycogen before it will tap into stored body fat. So, if your goal is to build muscle while burning fat, try hitting the weights prior to cardio.


After a solid weight training session, your body doesn’t stop there. It continues to burn calories well after your session is over. Ensuring you have plenty of energy when you lift can help you amp it up and continue to reap the benefits throughout the entire day. If you perform cardio before weights, you risk not having as much energy to bring to your lift. If that’s the case, not only will your training session suffer, but as a result you’ll miss out on the awesome benefits of the weightlifting “afterburn!”


If your legs are already tired from cardio, if you’re planning to involve them in your weight training session, you’ll likely not be able to lift as much weight. Increasing the load you’re using is one of the major ways to see results and get stronger. But, if you’re planning on doing an upper body focused session, this doesn’t pose as much of an issue. In this case, either one first it suitable for that day.

Cardio before weights:


If you come to the gym to lift, it’s unlikely that you’ll leave after completing cardio beforehand. On the flip side, if you have a lift plan, it’s quite tempting to head for the door and skip the cardio altogether. If this is you, get your cardio session in first thing so you can be sure to make it happen!


Perhaps you’re training for a marathon or sprint. If your goal is endurance or speed focused, then bringing the most energy to your cardio program is paramount. Making time for strength training is important too, but you don’t want your cardio time compromised! In this case, it makes sense for you to prioritize cardio before weightlifting.

The fact of the matter is, for the typical workout, the difference is minimal. If you’ve got specific body composition or training goals, you should consider being more deliberate about which one you’re doing first. So, do what works best for YOU!

But wait…there’s more!

Ever thought of combining the two? Yes, you CAN have it all! There are a variety of ways to incorporate both cardio and strength in one session…and even one exercise! This is a great option for you if you’re looking to build muscle, burn fat, and improve your general fitness! Visit the fitness desk to talk to a trainer for the scoop!

Happy Training!

Further reading:

By Ruthie Silver, UVAC Personal Trainer and Fitness Nutrition Specialist

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