Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Which Comes First, Weights or Cardio?

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

Does the order of your fitness routine matter? Find out …

If you’re one of those exercisers who is happy (proud, even) to fit in a cardio session or resistance training, congratulate yourself and get to it. However, some exercisers try to accomplish both in one workout. Wow, right! All the power of time and stamina to these fitness warriors.

If this is you, trying to order your routine for the best outcome may be confusing. Even experts have conflicting theories on optimal exercise order, based on everything from fitness goals to how motivated their own muscles are to lift weights after a cardio session. Here are guidelines based on your goals.

For Weight Loss

When burning calories is your main fitness goal, most recommend your cardio session precede strength training. People tend to burn more calories when they do aerobic exercises at the beginning of their routine. It tends to be easier to maintain momentum– whether on the treadmill, cycle, or in a class– before maxing out with weights.

Try a strength/cardio combo!

Interestingly, weightlifting often burns more calories per minute than aerobic exercise does. However, most can perform aerobic exercise for longer periods than they can lift weights. It may be best to max out your cardio work first, which will allow you to burn the most calories per session, even if not per minute.

It is always important to include strength training, especially if weight loss is your goal. Increasing muscle mass allows the body to more efficiently burn calories, even when at rest. If you’re too fatigued after cardio work, consider adding weight sessions on alternate days.

For Sport Performance

Focus on your sport.

Athletes often meticulously construct their fitness sessions. The order and focus of your exercises depends on whether you wish to increase your edge in doubles tennis, improve your golf swing, or score more wins in team sports. Generally, you need to consider three factors:

  • The requirements of your sport
  • Your current fitness level
  • Your specific performance goals

Elite athletes go beyond organizing their daily workout. They perform an extensive variety of exercises in a specific order over days, weeks, and months. Their program encompasses the usual elements, along with emphasis on agility, flexibility, and psychology. Consult with a personal trainer to help create your sport-specific workouts. Time your fitness program to peak during your sport season.

For Health

As with everything in life, a healthy fitness plan must be balanced. It should contain an aerobic segment, strength training, and stretching. A warm-up and cooldown are essential markers at the start and finish.

When overall health and fitness are your goals, the order of exercises does not matter much. Whether you go to Zumba® class before or after you pump iron or grab the exercise bands does not significantly impact your results.

Getting it done is what matters most.
Getting it done is what matters most.

A balanced workout should be your main goal, even if long term. You don’t need to squeeze in a training session after a one-hour Group Fitness class. Just be sure to schedule it for the next day. And, if you finished swinging the kettlebell for a full session, save your swim routine for the weekend. Well-being requires balance in all things—nutrition, work, family, self, and, yes, your fitness program.

Regional Fitness Manager RJ Pietrucha shares probably the wisest advice, “The best order for your fitness routine is the one you prefer. As long as you manage all aspects of proper fitness, order is not that significant.”

Along this thought, the best workout is the one you will accomplish. Create a fitness routine to accommodate your lifestyle. Don’t overemphasize the details. Just get it done.


“Before or After? When to Do Cardio in Your Weights Session” by Paul Rogers at verywell.com.

“Exercise Order—Should You do Cardio Before Weights?” by Elizabeth Quinn at verywell.com.

“How to Balance Cardio and Weights in Your Workouts,” by Paul Rogers at verywell.com.

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