Cardio or Weights first

Cardio or weights, which comes first?
If you go about it the wrong way, it’s like speeding up and braking at the same time. You also risk injury.

But if you know the ideal solution, you will have more power in training and you will make faster progress.

No matter which goal you pursue.

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Why There is More Than One Answer…

Strength and endurance sports have been an important part of my life for over 8 years.

Until a few years ago I ran at least one marathon a year. Also at that time I wanted to become stronger and stronger, but my first priority was the finish time of the marathon.

For some years now, weight training has been my top priority. Cardio training is still important to me, but it no longer comes first.

The question about the right order came up more than once.

If you continue reading, you will understand why the answer for me today is different than before.

First of all: If your ultimate goal is to look fit, then you can expect the best results if the right strength training is your first priority.

baseball player

9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting Cardio and Weight Training

The answer to the question, which is the optimal sequence of strength and endurance training, is as individual as our objective in training.

In fact, your training goal plays a decisive role.

There are also a few general influencing factors that everyone should consider.

I will first discuss the individual factors before we focus on the general points.

Halloween candy

Cardio or Weight First? Training #A – Individual Factors

The answer depends on your goals.

Therefore, you should answer the following questions first.

It is best to write them down on a separate piece of paper.

This will not only give you more clarity for your training plan, but also for your priorities and goals.

  • Training intensity: How intensively do you shape your endurance and strength training? An example of high-intensity endurance training is HISS and HIIT Cardio, while a quiet continuous load, such as an extensive endurance run, has a low intensity. An example of high-intensity muscle building training is HIT (High Intensity Training). The type of muscle building training I recommend is usually a little less intense.
  • Training duration: How long does your endurance and strength training session last on average?
  • Fitness level and individual strength: How fit are you regarding endurance and strength training? In which of the two disciplines do you see your strength? Rate both strength and endurance on a scale of 1 to 10.The higher of the two values represents your current individual strength.
  • Motivation: Which of the two disciplines is the most fun for you? Endurance or strength training?
  • Objective: What is your personal training goal? Do you want to train for a competition, build muscles or lose weight quickly?
  • Prioritization: If you pursue several goals, then make a clear decision. Which one of your goals is most important, which one is 2nd and so on. It’s really important that you set a ranking!

Have you answered all the questions?


In addition to your individual profile, there are also very general factors that influence the answer.

silhouette of two runners

Cardio or Weight Frist? Training #B – Basic Factors

Three factors influence the correct order of your endurance and strength training:

  1. The energy you can bring to the workout
  2. The causes of muscular fatigue
  3. The risk of injury during training

You can do your training more intensively, focused and efficiently if you are still fresh and rested.

If your batteries are empty, you will be less effective in your training and more likely to injure yourself.

The sequence of training sessions is especially important if you have a specific goal.

You may want to build muscle, refine your technique, or simply lose weight.

Of course it also plays a role whether you are already extremely fit today or still want to become so.

Shape Goals - Everything you need to know about

Cardio or Weights First?: How to Find the Ideal Order

Many of us can avoid the question of the optimal order by simply doing endurance and strength training on different days.

Circuit and super substitute training is an alternative that we can use to get our metabolism up to speed during strength training.

This is enough for general fitness.

But it is not the fastest way to look fit.

Here are 5 possible training goals. Where do you get into?

  1. General fitness.
  2. More endurance.
  3. Fat reduction or muscle building.
  4. More performance in a sport.
  5. Just have fun.

The one magic solution does not exist! For each goal the perfect order will look a little different, in some cases it plays a bigger role than in others.

We go through the different solutions one by one.

cardio or weights first?

1. You Want to Improve Your General Fitness?

If you want to improve your fitness in general, it is not important whether you start with weight training or go through an cardio unit first.

In fact, you can also combine both elements by creating a training plan with intervals or circuit training.

Just as well you could alternate strength and cardio training if you feel like it.

Advantage: You can train according to your mood, the fun is in the foreground.

2. You Want to Improve Your Endurance?

To increase your endurance, you should also start with cardio or endurance training.

This is the only way to get the energy you need for a hard and long training session.

Attach weight training to your endurance unit 2-3 times a week to strengthen your muscles and build up muscle mass on the one hand and reduce your risk of injury in endurance sports on the other.

If you do strength exercises before a long challenging distance session, you risk overloading and injuries in the endurance unit.

If you have 8 hours to regenerate between the strength and endurance units, things will get easier.

With the right diet after exercise, you replenish your energy stores.

Then the order plays only a minor role – here you can try both: Strength in the morning, endurance in the evening or vice versa.

Advantage: You achieve optimal results in increasing your endurance and minimize the risk of injury.

training with weights

3. You Want to Lose Fat or Build Muscle?

If you want to lose fat or build muscle, you should give priority to strength training.

The best time to do it is when the energy source in your muscles – glycogen – is still high.

If you go for a hard endurance session before you lift weights, you will shoot your powder too early – and your strength training will be less effective.

You don’t get your horsepower on the road and hurt yourself more easily.

A light endurance workout following an intensive muscle build-up workout is easy to implement.

Advantage: You achieve optimal training results with muscle building and fat reduction.

runner at the start

4. You Want to Get Better in a Special Sport?

If you train for a specific sport, you need to create your training plan in a way that it meets the needs of your sport.

So cardio or weights first?

Whether you do strength or endurance training first depends, as you probably already know, on the sport, but also on your fitness and your overall goals.

If you are not sure which training plan is right for your sport, you should look for a personal trainer or sport coach you can trust.

Competitive athletes train according to a schedule that is divided into daily, weekly and monthly periods and catapults them to their peak at the time they want – usually during the competition season.

At the beginning of their cycle they undergo a general basic training.

As time goes by, they focus more and more on certain sports-specific focuses and techniques, and also take care of the psychological components of their training in order to reach the high performance level precisely at the start of the competition.

Their program is pyramidal and includes all fitness factors: strength, endurance, flexibility, agility, psychology, etc…

Advantage: You perform at your best in your sport.

Shape Goals - Everything you need to know about

5. You Just Want to do Sports Regularly?

If sport should be part of your life, then you want to integrate your training sessions into your daily routine and harmonize them with other things that are important to you (job, family, friends, …).

Then it is best if you put together your training plan in such a way that it works for your body under these conditions.

So cardio or weights first?

Maybe you feel best if you start with cardio training and then do strength training.

Maybe your body will react better if you go running one day and do a weight training in the gym the next.

It’s okay if you follow your body feeling when you put together your training plan.

Advantage: You can adapt your training to your mood and your environment, the fun is in the foreground.

silhouette of a running girl

The Critical Element in Cardio and Weights Training

It is quite easy to get confused by all the different experiences, opinions, training tips and scientific studies that we find every day on the Internet and in magazines.

As so often, many of the things we read there contradict each other.

Serenity is a good idea.

I recommend that you try and find out what works best for you. First of all, follow the principles mentioned above.

Then try out different approaches and determine (measurably) how you can achieve the best results.

weights in a gym

Summary: Cardio or Weights First?

“Should I do cardio or weights first??”

I hope I was able to help you answer this question and bring more clarity to your goals and training plan.

Not only do we all look different on the outside, our bodies also react differently to training stimuli. What works for Peter doesn’t have to work for Clarissa – every person is different.

So try it out, choose one of the variants – that fits your training goal – and do your own “scientific” experiments.

If you measure your progress – I recommend a training diary to everyone who stays on the track – you should be able to determine the effect of the training sequence on your results (energy, diet, physique, training performance, recipes, mood, nutrition, …) pretty accurately.

Question: What is your goal? How do you train? What experiences have you had with the sequence of endurance and strength training? Write a comment.

Categories: Training


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