Should You Start With Cardio or Weights?

Are you wrestling with the decision of whether to hit the treadmill or the weights first? It's a common decision for most people who headf to the gym aiming to get the most out of their workouts. The order can significantly impact your performance and results, whether you’re looking to build muscle, increase endurance, or simply improve overall fitness.

Cardio Before Weights: Energising or Exhausting?

The Benefits of Starting with Cardio

Beginning with cardio can warm up the muscles, enhance blood flow, and set a positive tone for strength training. It primes the body for activity, potentially reducing the risk of injuries. For those whose primary goal is to increase cardiovascular fitness or lose weight, starting with a heart-pumping cardio session makes sense.

The Drawbacks

However, intense cardio can lead to fatigue, which might compromise your ability to lift heavier weights or maintain proper form during strength training. This could limit the effectiveness of your resistance training session and potentially increase the risk of injury.

Weights Before Cardio: Maximising Muscle Gains

The Case for Lifting First

If muscle gain is your primary objective, it’s beneficial to start with strength training. Lifting weights while you are freshest allows you to perform at peak capacity. You can lift heavier and push harder without the pre-fatigue from a cardio session, maximising your strength gains and stimulating muscle growth more effectively.

Potential Cardio Compromise

Following up with cardio after weights can feel tougher as your energy reserves might be lower. However, this can also be an efficient way to burn fat, as your body may utilise fat stores for energy instead of the glycogen depleted during weightlifting.

Integrating Both for Balanced Fitness

Expert Insight

Fitness professionals suggest tailoring the sequence to your goals. If endurance is the goal, start with cardio; for strength, hit the weights first. Your personal fitness level and preferences should guide this choice, ensuring a routine that you can adhere to consistently.

Practical Tips for Combining Cardio and Strength

Consider integrating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or circuit training into your sessions. These methods combine the benefits of both cardio and strength training, keeping heart rates elevated while building muscle through varied, rapid-paced exercises.


There's no one-size-fits-all answer to whether you should do cardio or weights first. It largely depends on your specific fitness goals, energy levels, and personal preferences.

Experiment with different orders to find what works best for you, and remember, consistency is key to any successful fitness regimen.

By considering these factors and testing your own responses to each order, you can optimise your workout routine for better results and greater satisfaction.

Cardio vs. weightsEndurance buildingFitness planningStrength trainingWorkout efficiency