Strength training is good for your muscles; cardio is good for your heart. Both are essential if you want to be a fit, healthy person, but what’s the best way to combine them?
We’ve covered one argument in favour of doing weights first: both use your muscles’ fuel stores, but being low on that fuel is more of a problem for weights than for cardio. Another reason to start with weights: you’re more likely to screw up when you’re tired, so struggling with a barbell at the end of your workout is arguably more dangerous than just having to get through another five minutes on the exercise bike.
But there’s another side here: if you lift first, you’ll be more tired when it’s time to do cardio. You won’t be able to give sprints your all. If you’re doing a long run, you’ll feel even more exhausted toward the end.
So here’s your rule: whichever is more important to you, do that one first. You’ll be fresh for it, and can do your lower priority exercise afterward.
If you’re trying to get stronger and want to lift the most weight possible, lift first.
If you want to get faster or better at endurance, do cardio first.
If you’re just working out for general fitness, either is fine.
If you’re working out mainly for weight loss, it’s still a toss-up. Some studies say you’ll burn more calories in the same workout if the weights come first; but then you risk feeling tired in the end and cutting your cardio short.
Feel free to mix it up, too! If it works for your schedule to alternate the two, go for it. You could even break up your cardio session and do half before weights and half after. Put the more important one first if you can, but at the end of the day all that really matters is that you’re able to consistently do both.