Which Should Come First: Cardio or Weights?

determined black woman exercising with battle ropes in gym

Are you trying to build a physique that all your friends envy? Or are you just trying to structure your workouts to get the best results possible? Either way, you have probably wondered whether you should do cardio or weights first.

It’s a common question that most people in the gym have asked. 

Wonder no more! The answer is below.

Cardio or Weights First? The Answer

Experts disagree on this issue. However, there is a simple answer if you know your goals!

If your primary goal is to build endurance or lose body fat: Do cardio first.

If your primary goal is to increase strength or size: Hit the weights first.

If neither applies to your goals: Do what you find most satisfying.

young female athlete training alone on treadmill in modern gym: cardio or weights first
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on


Try scheduling them on different days if you want to get the most out of your cardio and weights sessions. You could also try splitting them into two separate sessions if you have the time for it.

If your goal is overall health, you could also adopt HIIT style training with added weight to get the most of both in a short time frame.

Consistency will provide the best results regardless of your goals.

How Does Cardio Affect Weight Training?

Running after you lift keeps glycogen stores up during the weight training session so you can lift more weight for more reps. Additionally, cardio can make you physically tired. This lack of energy will impact your ability to train effectively.

This is especially true if you lift later in the day. You will likely already have less energy and focus when stepping into the gym. If your goal is to gain strength or size, you want to have as much energy and focus as possible.

Why Would the Order Matter?

When you do cardio or weights, it uses up glycogen stores in your body. So, if your goal is to gain strength or size, your body won’t have the energy it needs to put forth enough effort while lifting to maximize results.

However, if you’re trying to increase caloric burn, you may benefit from doing cardio first.

Does it Really Matter if You do Cardio or Weights First?

It matters if you are a competitive athlete or trying to put on muscle strength or size. Otherwise, for most people, cardio or weights first will have little effect on whether they reach their goals as long as they are consistent.

The change in exercise order most likely won’t affect your workouts drastically. Instead, it’s more important that you do workouts in a way that you can maintain them for the long term.

If you are interested in leveraging every possible opportunity to get the most out of your workouts, it is probably time to talk to a personal trainer. They will be able to provide you with unbiased, expert advice to reach your goals in the most effective way possible.

What Matters Most?

The single most significant factor in whether you reach your goals or not is your diet. No amount of perfect workouts will outwork a poor diet.

Which to do first, cardio or weights? Diet!
Diet is more important than both!

If you are trying to add size to your frame, you need to be eating in a caloric surplus. This need for a caloric surplus usually holds for increasing strength as well.

Alternatively, suppose you are trying to lose weight or tone up. In that case, you need to be eating below your body’s required maintenance calories.

If you aren’t sure how much you need to be eating, you can use the calorie calculator here or try an app like this one.

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In 2013 I attended TVCC with my studies focusing on nutrition and biology. After leaving TVCC I pursued a career in inbound marketing and have worked in many different industries including health and fitness, firearms, coaching, and many more. I spent 6 years training for powerlifting and 6 years after training for a bodybuilding show in Idaho, which sadly did not come to fruition.

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