Which comes first, cardio or strength training? Consider this question the “chicken and the egg” question of fitness. No matter what your fitness goals may be, a balanced workout consisting of both cardiovascular exercise and strength training is the key to success. Is there an advantage to the order you choose for your complete workout? The answer varies depending on your specific goals.
Even experts disagree as to which form of training to execute first. Generally, the consensus is to strategize your workouts to reflect your priorities. Whether your priority is losing weight or building muscle, your workout should begin with the area you want (and need) the most energy to complete.
If you want to lose weight, choose cardiovascular exercise first. Both cardiovascular exercise and weight training are crucial for losing weight. Cardiovascular exercise allows your body to deplete its glycogen stores, or the body’s energy storage system. When glycogen is depleted, the body begins to burn stored fat as fuel, leading to the fat loss we’re all chasing. If you’re choosing cardiovascular exercise before weight training, be sure to leave yourself with enough energy to properly execute your strength training moves. If you find that after your cardiovascular exercise, you lack the energy to maintain proper attention to detail and proper attention to form when you’re lifting, you will be better served by saving weight training for its own day in your schedule. Lifting weights when you’re too fatigued to pay attention to your form increases your risk of injury.
If your goal is to gain muscle, then strength training should come first in your routine. Essentially, your schedule should allow you to focus your energy first on your primary goals. Lifting after a heavy cardiovascular session may limit your ability to improve your strength and resistance training.
If you’re goal is less specific and you just want a healthier lifestyle, choose the exercise you prefer first. Ultimately, if your goal is a lifelong fitness habit that will get you to your healthiest self, the workout you look forward to is the workout you will do. If you have a strong preference for either cardiovascular exercise or weight training, start each workout with your favorite activity. The odds of building a lifetime of consistent exercise starts with the workout you’ll look forward to each morning.
Unless you’re training for a specific event or you have a very specific goal in mind, experimentation might lead you to the routine that works best for your body and mind. Mixing up the order of your workout can also keep your workouts feeling fresh, rather than too routine. Try starting in the weight room one day and the cardiovascular room the next. You can also try one of FitClub’s group exercise classes that’s designed to raise your heart rate and increase your lean muscle. Variety not only ensures that you’re making time for both forms of exercise, but it prevents boredom and leads to more consistency, which is, ultimately, the goal we all share!