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Which Comes First: Cardio or Strength Training?

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

By Tammy Snow-Johnston, Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor

Like many of us, you have a lot to do from day to day and while you may love working out, you want to maximize your time in the gym. In an effort to get the most out of your time there, you may choose to do both cardio and strength training in the same session and this is perfectly okay... but which should come first?



This often seems to be a million-dollar question. The truth is that it depends on your goals, so planning accordingly to ensure a safe and efficient workout will definitely help to improve the quality of your training time in the gym. For example, if your goal is to increase strength, prioritize strength training first. If you are fatigued by the time you step up to the weights because you did cardio first, not only can it be more difficult to complete enough reps of any given exercise, but you also run a higher risk of using poor form which is not only inefficient but can increase your risk of injury. A basic dynamic body-weight warm-up followed by compound exercises (exercises that involve multiple muscles at a time such as squats or rows) and then, if time allows, a few accessory exercises (exercises that isolate one muscle at a time such as bicep curls or leg extensions) is an effective and time-efficient way to program your strength training sessions. If time allows and you still have some energy left over, try sprinkling in a little high-intensity or steady-state cardio as a finisher if you like, and don’t forget that 5-10 minutes of stretching is a great way to cool down and release tension after your workout.

If on the other hand, your goal is more cardio endurance-focused, you can absolutely start your training session with cardio, but you need to be extra mindful of good form and only lift as much as your body will allow after a tiring cardio session (going lighter in weight is something to consider). An ideal solution in this case, if your schedule allows, is to consider splitting your program so that you can focus on cardio one day, and strength training another day. In summary, the idea is to workout smarter, not harder. No matter what your goals are, it is always a good idea to take some time to plan out a program that is tailored to your specific goals.


Need some help with planning and programming your workouts? Free2Be Wellness has highly qualified trainers available to do just that.


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