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The Science-Based Answer to The Age-Long Question “Should I Do Cardio Before or After Weights.”

cardio before or after weights

Before looking for the answer “Cardio before or after weights,” find the answer to the question “Why?” Why are you hitting the gym every single day? Is it because you want to build your muscle or pump your glutes? Or is it because you want to boost your endurance and live a healthy life? Or is it something you wish to have a concoction of both the elements?

Well, the answer to “Cardio before or after weights” lies in your response to “why are you working out?” Hence, this article discusses whether you should perform cardio before or after weights and the optimal methods for combining strength and cardio training.

Should I Do Cardio Before or After Weights?

Weight Lifting Before Cardio

Cardio should always follow weightlifting if you want to bulk up. To put it another way, cardio before weightlifting reduces your ability to lift as many sets and repetitions as you would be able to otherwise. Hence, it is before weightlifting minimizes the volume and intensity you can achieve during a session.

cardio before or after weights

And it seems like a minor factor. But these tiny hiccups may compound up and significantly impact your ability to build muscle and strength in the long run. So, if you’re doing low-intensity, short-duration cardio, this generally won’t apply. Hitting the treadmill or cycling at a casual speed won’t hinder your progress, but a more extended, moderate-intensity cardio session will.

After lifting, how long do you need to wait before doing cardio?

Wait for a minimum of 24 hours after lifting weights. It is usually best to avoid engaging the same muscle area with cardio. For instance, if you bench press on Sunday, you should wait until Monday to go for a swim. Nonetheless, you can still go for a bike ride on Sunday because cycling involves a separate muscle area from the bench press.

Studies suggest that spacing your weightlifting and aerobic exercises for at least six hours is a solid rule of thumb. So, if you have to train the same muscle group on the same day, follow the six-hour rule.

And if you cannot do so because of your schedule or personal preferences, follow your weightlifting session with 30 minutes of cardio. Even while this exercise style isn’t ideal, it won’t jeopardize your growth as much as performing cardio first.

Cardio Before Weight Lifting

Before lifting weights, it’s typically best to focus on aerobic workouts in preparation for a long endurance event like a marathon. Even if you don’t have a specific objective, warming up with some cardio before weight training might be beneficial in some situations. McCall recommends doing cardio first for those who want to ensure that their bodies are adequately warmed up and prepped before beginning their strength training.

“Doing some light, constant-state cardio for about 10 minutes before any high effort or activity prepares the body for exercise,” says Eric Sternlicht, Ph.D. associate professor of health sciences at Chapman University in Orange, California.

For example, mastering Olympic lifts, or deadlifting a given weight amount, requires low-intensity training, not high-intensity. So, McCall recommends that you avoid HIIT and stick cardio to a constant state to avoid tiredness influencing your strength training.

How Long Should You Do Your Cardio?

Research published in 2013 by the Journal of Strength and Research Conditioning concluded that exercisers who warmed up on the leg press for fifteen minutes straight at a low intensity lifted more weights than those who had five minutes warm-ups or any length of time at a moderate effort. So, a dynamic warm-up may make all the difference when it comes to weightlifting.

On the other hand, weight training for general fitness requires a more vigorous warm-up. With no specific goals in mind, McCall recommends that anybody performing weight training for primary fitness conduct 15 to 25 minutes of aerobic or steady-state exercises before strength training.

When It’s Time to Bulk Up and Boost Your Stamina

Is weightlifting more important if you want to gain muscles or if you wish to boost your endurance simultaneously? If so, what should you do?

The question is whether it’s better to perform cardio before or after weight training if you want to reap the advantages of lifting weights and doing cardio. Some strategies for balancing both at once:

  • Do weight training three to five times each week.
  • If you’ve been lifting weights for less than a year, do no more than 10 to 12 complex sets per major muscle group in a week; if you’ve been lifting weights for more than a year, do no more than 12 to 15 complex sets per major muscle group a week.
  • Low-impact aerobic exercises like cycling, rowing, skiing, and rucking should be your priority.
  • Do two to three 20- to 60-minute aerobic weekly sessions at a low to moderate intensity.
  • One HIIT weekly session is optional and is no better than moderate-intensity cardio.
  • Avoid doing more than 2-3 hours of cardio in a week.
  • If you have to perform cardio and weightlifting on the same day, do your weightlifting first and keep the two workouts at least six hours apart.
  • Don’t let yourself get to the point of muscular failure or exhaustion throughout your workouts.
  • Every eight to ten weeks take a break from the workout.

What If You Want Weight Loss?

It doesn’t matter if you do cardio or weights first, although Strenlicht thinks that strength outweighs cardio’s overall significance. Why? Because it burns more calories than strength training. Thus, most people focus on undergoing more cardio while trying weight-loss exercises. But still, strength training is considerably better than doing more cardio.

Why? Increased or maintained lean mass can help you burn more fat during the long term. ICYDK, Sternlicht adds that the greater muscle weight, the greater your relaxing metabolic rate. So, with shorter rest periods and heavier weight training, you develop more excess-post-exercise-oxygen-consumption (EPOC) (the extra calories you burn after the workout).

Yet, you should not wholly avoid this exercise. Aerobic exercise uses more fuel and burns more calories since you constantly move. But you might spend 65 percent of your effort recovering with strength training. Thus, adding up some cardio will enhance your metabolism,” Sternlicht explains.


By now, you must have a fundamental idea of incorporating cardio and weight lifting into your workout regime. Knowing your body and why you are doing it is crucial. And only later can you conclude, “should I do cardio before or after weights.”

You may also like: 6 Endurance Exercises You Won’t Hate

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Hello, I am the founder of Health and Stamina and a full-time health and fitness blogger. Bringing you the most talked-about health and fitness issues from reliable sources. 

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