Should you do weights before or after cardio? It boils down to what’s most important to your goals. When fitness is the main goal you’re best starting with cardio. And you can then push those energy systems and respiratory pathways whilst mentally and physically fresh. After cardio, you can do complimentary weights. But if possible, alternate days between cardio and weights.
Weight Lifting is Anaerobic
Weight lifting uses glycogen which is stored carbohydrate in muscles. Lifting weights is anaerobic, meaning without oxygen. And aerobic means with oxygen. Cardio burns carbohydrate (and fat) stores. So, there’s less glycogen available for intense weight lifting. We’re strongest when muscles are full of carbohydrates! Especially important when training hard to achieve high levels of strength and muscle mass.
At the end of an intense mesocycle (training block) full glycogen stores are key. Then, we can perform at our best and lift more weight than last time! So our body positively adapts to new performance levels. Over reaching (pushing limits) periods like this are short. And are followed by deloads/restful weeks to recover. These tougher phases push passed plateaus.
Weights Before or After Cardio
If your goals are maximizing muscle and strength, lift weights first! The benefits you receive will be:
- Lower chance of injury because weight lifting is a skill requiring a fresh central nervous system for optimal control.
- Improved energy because cardio exercise is energetically tiring, fatigues the joints and muscles.
- Faster strength and muscle progress due to improved recovery and improved performance.
Is Cardio Necessary?
Cardio isn’t needed to burn fat! Yes, you heard right! Because too much cardio raises hunger hormones making fat loss harder! Resulting in eating the calories back and cancelling out the calorie deficit. So, step count goals are an excellent tool. As you can increase activity levels without impacting strength training.
Cardio Risks Muscle Loss
If your main goal is building muscle. But you want to get fitter too, do cardio after your weights. Not before. Better yet, alternate the days by doing weights one day and cardio the other. But definitely avoid aggressive high intensity interval training HIIT the day before a tough weights session. Such as deadlifts, back squats and bench press. Or the day before a big leg session. Instead, possibly the day before an easier weights session. Then, you’ll avoid being fatigued and can push yourself.
When muscle building is the main goal. Aim to keep cardio less than half the time of your weight lifting. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning muscle tissue. And it’s so hard to build muscle naturally! Furthermore, I avoid HIIT when building muscle. It hinders muscle growth significantly. Especially when you become more of an advanced strength trainee. Ultimately, our recovery tank is finite. Use it wisely so you can progress and achieve your goals fastest!
Did this help you understand which one you must choose? What is your most important goal?
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