Cardio or Weights, Which Comes First?
Cardio or weights first? Is it better to do cardio or weights first? I don’t only hear such questions about endurance and strength training in fitness coaching:
Should I do pre-workout or post-workout cardio?
Does the order even matter?
And if so, how does it affect my training result?
Going about it the wrong way is like stepping on the gas and stepping on the brakes at the same time. You also risk injury.
But if you know the ideal solution, you will have more power in your training and make faster progress.
No matter what goal you are pursuing.
Cardio or weights first? Why is there more than one answer?
“Whoever chases several rabbits catches none.”
Strength and endurance sports have been an important part of my life for over 14 years.
Until a few years ago, I ran at least one marathon a year. Even then, I wanted to get stronger gradually, but my top priority was the finish time in the marathon competition.
I’ve given up my marathon shoes after 8 marathons and many other competitions.
Weight training has been my top priority for several years. Cardio training is still important to me, but it’s not my top priority anymore.
The question of the correct order came to me more than once.
If you read on, you will understand why the answer is different for me today than it used to be.
So much in advance: If your primary goal is “looking good in a swimsuit”, you can expect the best results if the right strength training for you comes first.
Should I do cardio or weights first? 9 questions to ask yourself before you start cardio or weights training
The answer to the question of the optimal sequence of strength and endurance training is as individual as our training goals.
Your training goal plays a crucial role.
There are also a few general influencing factors that everyone who stays tuned in should consider.
Before we turn to the general points, I will examine the individual factors.
Cardio or Weights Training #A – Individual Factors
The answer depends on your goals.
Therefore, you should first answer the following questions.
It is best to write them down on a separate piece of paper.
This not only gives you more clarity for your training plan but also for your priorities and goals.
- Training intensity: How intensively do you build your endurance? An example of high-intensity endurance training is HISS and HIIT cardio, while a steady, continuous effort, such as an extensive jog, is low-intensity. An example of high-intensity muscle-building training is HIT (High-Intensity Training). The muscle-building workouts I recommend tend to be a little less intense.
- Training duration: How long does your endurance and strength training session last on average?
- Fitness level and individual strength: How fit are you in endurance and strength training? In which of the two disciplines do you see your strengths? Rate both – strength and endurance – on a scale from 1 to 10. The higher of the two values represents your current individual strength.
- Motivation: Which of the two disciplines do you enjoy the most? Endurance or strength training?
- Objective: What is your personal training goal? Do you want to train for a competition, build muscle or lose weight quickly?
- Prioritization: If you are pursuing multiple goals, make a clear decision. Which of your goals is the most important, which is second, and so on. You must establish a ranking!
Did you answer all questions?
In addition to your individual profile, there are also very general factors that influence the answer.
Cardio or Weights Training #B – Basic Factors
Three factors influence the proper order of your endurance and strength training:
- The energy that you can muster for training
- The causes of muscular fatigue
- The risk of injury during exercise
You can train more intensely, more focused, and more efficiently when you are fresh and rested.
If your batteries are empty, you will also be less effective in training and more likely to injure yourself.
The order of the training sessions is essential when you have a clear goal.
Maybe you want to build muscle, refine your technique, or lose weight.
It also plays a role in whether you are already extremely fit today or whether you still want to become so.
Cardio before or after training: This is how you find the ideal order
Many of us can avoid the optimal order question by doing cardio and strength training on different days.
Circuit and superset training is an alternative that we can use to boost our metabolism during strength training.
That’s enough for general fitness.
But it’s not the quickest way to look good in a swimming suit.
Here are five possible training goals. Where do you classify yourself?
- General fitness.
- More endurance.
- fat loss or muscle gain.
- More performance in a sport.
- Just have fun.
There is no magic solution! For each objective, the perfect order will be slightly different. In some cases, it matters more than others.
We’ll go through the different solutions in turn.
1, Do you want to improve your overall fitness?
If you want to improve your fitness in general, it doesn’t matter whether you start with strength training or do an endurance unit first.
You can also combine both elements by creating a training plan with intervals or circuit training.
You might also alternate strength training and cardio if you feel like it.
Advantage: You can train as you please. The focus is on having fun.
2, Do you want to increase your endurance?
You should also start with cardio or endurance training to develop your endurance.
This is the only way to have the energy you need for a hard and long training session.
Add strength training to your endurance unit 2-3 times a week to strengthen your muscles and thus build muscle mass on the one hand and reduce your risk of injury in endurance sports.
If you do strength exercises before a demanding long-distance session, you risk overloading and injuries in the endurance session.
Things get easier if you have 8 hours to recover between strength and endurance sessions.
With the right diet after exercise, you can replenish your energy stores.
Then the order only plays a subordinate role – here, you can try both: Strength in the morning, endurance in the evening, or vice versa.
Advantage: You achieve optimal results when developing your endurance and minimizing the risk of injury.
3, Do you want to lose fat or build muscle?
To lose fat or gain muscle, you should prioritize strength training.
It’s best to do it when the energy source in your muscles – glycogen – is still high.
If you tackle a hard cardio session before you lift weights, you’ll lose your powder too soon – and your strength training will be less effective.
If you’ve ever tried to pull off a sarcoplasmic muscle-building workout while you’re fatigued, you know what I’m talking about.
You don’t get the horsepower on the road and injure yourself more easily.
On the other hand, you can implement light endurance training following intensive muscle-building training without any problems.
Advantage: You achieve optimal training results in muscle building and fat reduction.
4, Do you want to get better at a specific sport?
If you’re training for a specific sport, you need to tailor your training plan to meet the needs of your sport.
Whether you do strength or endurance training first depends, as you can probably imagine, on the sport and your fitness and overall goals.
Suppose you are unsure which training plan is right for your sport. You should find a personal trainer or sports coach you trust.
Competitive athletes train according to a schedule that is divided into daily, weekly and monthly periods and catapult them to their peak performance at the time they want – usually during the competition season.
At the beginning of their cycle, they complete general basic training.
Over time, they focus more and more on specific sports-specific focal points and techniques and take care of the psychological components of their training to reach their peak performance for the competition.
Their program is structured pyramidally and includes all fitness factors: strength, endurance, flexibility, agility, psychology, etc.
Advantage: You achieve top performance in your sport.
5, Do you just want to do sports regularly?
If you want to stay on the ball and sport should remain part of your life, then you want to integrate your training units into your daily routine and harmonize them with other things important to you (job, family, friends, etc.).
Then it is best if you put together your training plan to work for your body under these general conditions.
You may feel better if you start with cardio than strength training.
Your body may also respond better if you go for a run one day and then do a dumbbell workout at the gym the next.
It’s okay to go by how you feel when you put together your training plan.
Advantage: You can adapt your training to your mood and your environment. The focus is on having fun.
The critical element in cardio or weights training
It’s pretty easy to get confused by all the different experiences, opinions, training tips, and scientific studies we can find on the internet and on magazine shelves every day.
As so often, many of the things we read there contradict each other.
Serenity is a good idea.
I recommend that you experiment and see what works best for you. First of all, orientate yourself on the principles mentioned above.
But then try different approaches and determine (measurably) which one gives you the best results.
Cardio or Weights – Conclusion
“Should I do pre-workout or post-workout cardio?”
“Is it better to do cardio or weights first?”
I hope I could help you answer this question and brought more clarity to your goals and training plan.
We all look different on the outside, and our bodies react differently to training stimuli. What works for Peter may not work for Clarissa – everyone is different.
So try it out, choose one of the variants – suitable for your training goal – and do your own “scientific” experiments.
If you measure your progress – I recommend a training diary to anyone who stays tuned – you should be able to determine the effect of the training order on your results (energy, physique, training performance, mood, nutrition, etc.) reasonably accurately.