Should you lift weights before or after cardio?

A woman is doing cardio on a cardio machine.

Cardio is a crucial part of living a healthy lifestyle, and being in a decent cardiovascular shape, can help you become better at weight lifting. But, there seems to be some confusion about whether you should lift weights before or after cardio.

Let’s have a look at whether you should lift weights before or after cardio and if it changes depending on your goals.

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Should you lift weights before or after cardio?

Whether you should lift weights before or after cardio depends on your goals. It depends on what you expect to get from your time spent in the gym. Let’s have a look at some of the most common reasons people spend time in the gym and if they should do cardio before lifting weights.

Goal: Build strength and muscle

Doing cardio, especially with high intensity, uses a lot of energy. The same energy you need to lift heavy weights. Taken from the same energy stores, you need to perform well in the gym.

If your goal is to get bigger and stronger, you’ll be able to reach your goals faster if you save your energy for what really matters. In this case, lifting heavy weights.

However, light cardio is still a great way to make sure you’re warm before lifting.

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Goal: Endurance

Lifting weights before doing cardio training could actually hurt your endurance. Just as doing cardio before lifting weights could hurt your performance in the gym.

Too much energy will be wasted on the secondary activity, in this case, weight lifting. As a result, the endurance performance will be worse, and you won’t be able to reach your goals as fast as you otherwise would.

Doing cardio before lifting weights will be a better option in this case.

Related: 3 HIIT workouts on the treadmill

Goal: Weight loss

Cardio has to be the most crucial part of your workout to lose weight, right?

Wrong. Studies suggest that you’ll be able to burn more calories in one workout if you’re doing the weight lifting first.

Lifting weights doesn’t just burn calories throughout the workout. The real benefits, and the reason why you should lift first, won’t show straight away. However, over time, as you build more muscle mass, your BMR will rise. Your body will burn more calories from just existing, and losing weight and burning fat will become far easier.

Lifting weights before cardio is the best option if you’re trying to lose weight.

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The best cardio to combine with weight lifting

The best cardio is the cardio you enjoy and actually do. However, there is one type of cardio that goes extra well with strength training.

Weight training requires a short burst of energy, fueled by glucose, already stored in your body. Strength training is an anaerobic activity.

An aerobic activity is an activity fueled by oxygen and not glucose. This is the kind of activity you’ll want to pair with your weight training. Especially the low activity exercises.

Walking, rowing, swimming, jogging, or whatever low intensity exercise you can imagine can be used here. The only thing that matters is that its low intensity.

Related: 7 things to avoid if you want to get stronger


Both cardio and weight lifting have many health benefits and should be a part of a healthy lifestyle. If your goal is to gain strength or lose weight, weights should always be done before cardio. However, if you’re training for endurance, it’s the other way around, and cardio should be done first.

The most important thing is that you stay active and enjoy what you do.