You arrive at the gym and you want to make the most of your workout. Which should you hit first: the cardio equipment or the weight room?
According to Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare, “If you exercise for general health and fitness, it doesn’t really matter in what order you complete your cardio and strength training. You just need to include both for optimal success.”
However, “the sequence is important when you are trying to reach a specific fitness goal,” she explains.
You want to lose weight
If weight loss is your goal, strength before cardio is the way to go. Strength training builds muscle and increases your resting metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest.
“Another reason to strength train first: weight training exercises typically deplete the muscles’ stored glycogen for energy. Doing cardio after weights will force your body to burn fat for energy due to the lack of available sugar for fuel,” says Hays.
You want to improve endurance
If you are preparing for an endurance event — a 5K, marathon, mud run — cardio first is most beneficial. When you train for these events, your goal is to increase performance and endurance. To do that, your muscles should be rested before long or intensive running sessions.
“Doing strength training first will tire your muscles and negatively impact performance and running form,” says Hays. “If possible, try to do your endurance and strength workouts on different days to allow for adequate recovery time.”
You want to build muscle and build strength
If your goal is to get stronger, build muscle and tone your physique, you should strength train first.
“Our bodies need a lot of energy to meet the demands of a strenuous strength workout,” Hays explains. “If you do cardio first, you will deplete glycogen stores, and will be left with no energy for strength training immediately after.”
“The bottom line is to organize your exercises by your fitness goals,” says Hays. “But it is even more important to have consistency in your program, because the best workouts are the ones you actually do.”