Cardio or Strength Training- What Comes First?

Author Nicole Murphy CPT

Cardio and weight training are both incorporated in any well-rounded fitness routine. But, you may be asking yourself, “Which one should I do first?” Don’t worry this isn’t a trick question like the debate about the chicken and the egg. It can be as easy as knowing your body, and goals.

So far there have been no studies showing that performing weight training exercises before cardio – or vice versa- will increase the amount of fat burned. The big determining factor of “fuel” used (fats, carbs, or proteins) is exercise intensity. See the chart below for goals and HR ranges.

  • General Health/ Recovery: 50-60%
  • Fat Burning/ Basic Endurance: 60-70%
  • Aerobic Fitness/ Heart Health: 70-80%
  • Increased Physical Performance/ Anaerobic: 80-90%
  • Speed Training/ Athletic Performance: 90-100%

*To find an estimate of your HR max take 220- Age.

Weight lifting before cardio can fatigue muscles quicker making it harder to stay in the intended heart rate range. So, a rule of thumb is to do the activity that is most important to your goal first. If your goal is muscle building, strength train first. Weight loss, cardio first. If you want to lose weight and build muscle you can alternate days which activity is done first.