Cardio Or Weights First?

This is a question I get asked a lot.

There is no definitive answer as it depends on your goal.

But in my opinion (and many others) it is definitely better to perform cardio after weights if you train both sides on one day.

In an ideal world it would be better to do cardio one day and then weights on another day but we are sometimes too busy to do this.

So Why Should You Do Cardio After Weights?

This is extra important when you perform high intense cardio, the cardio which I recommend, (HIIIT) high intensity interval training.

I’m not saying you won’t get results doing it the other way round but doing cardio at the end is better for your body, doing it the other way can be quite counterproductive.

When you perform cardio exercise (sprints, treadmill, bike, rower, cross trainer) you deplete your glycogen stores, this is the energy that is stored inside your muscles and liver tissue.

This is the energy that you call upon to be able to do resistance training. So if by the time you come around to your weights training your muscles will be thinking ‘where the hell is all the glycogen’ well you just used it all on the cardio you did 30 mins previous.

This is going to cause you to burn away muscle (bad) plus hinder some of the post workout effects from the cardio (bad again)

So what you should do it switch it around and use all of your stored glycogen (energy) for the resistance training and then by the time it comes to your high intense cardio your body is in the perfect position to burn fat as the energy stores have been depleted.

So if you were struggling to lose fat and you were doing your weights post cardio then do it the other way and see how you get on.

That is the chief reason for me but there are a few more I want to share with you.

Increased Energy For Weights

How do you normally feel after high intense cardio? I am normally curled up on the floor somewhere covered in sweat and trying to catch my breath/not be sick! (not all the time). If someone came up to me and said ‘time to lift weights’ I’d say no chance! You don’t feel quite as bad after a weights session so cardio will be okay but when you feel like that it’s not the right time to be lifting weights, your form won’t be good, you’ll feel dizzy and it’s unsafe to be lifting heavy weights and there’s a higher chance of injury. During the cardio session you will have totally fatigued some of the muscles which will make big exercises like squats and deadlifts very difficult.


After doing cardio first cortisol is released without an increase in testosterone. This breaks down muscle in order to fuel the body to workout, this is okay for example a long distance race but if you are trying to build muscle then it will have a negative effect. When you weight train cortisol levels plus testosterone levels go up, this hormonal shift gives you the energy needed to workout but also will help you to rebuild the muscle after training which is when the improvements occur.

Afterburn Effect

As you know from previous articles (if you’ve read them) your body keeps burning calories for up to 48 hours after high intensity interval training, this is called the afterburn effect. The exercise with the biggest afterburn effect will burn the most fat so will be good to do at the end.

So there are my main reasons for choosing to do cardio after weights like I said earlier it does depend on your goal.

This is a brief summary with some advice depending on your goals:

Improve Health

If your goal is simply to improve your health and your cardio consists of moderate intensity long cardio then it doesn’t really matter quite so much and you could get away with doing it in any order. You could even try doing circuit training which will effectively combine cardio with weights, two birds one stone.

Increase Muscle Size

Cardio at the end for the reasons I mentioned earlier related to glycogen stores.

Be Consistent With Exercise

Then this is up to you, the main thing is you find a training structure which you enjoy and you can stick to. If you prefer cardio before weight then that is absolutely fine as long as it keeps you coming back to the gym week in week out.

So there we have it, short, sweet and I hope I managed to answer your question and you know now whether to do your weights training before or after you cardio.

Any other questions you have that you want me to write an article on then please comment below.

Take care and train hard,

Jamie Stedman

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