Cardio vs. Weights: Timing Your Workouts for Maximum Effect

Susan Hoff
July 23, 2023

Should you head to the treadmills or the weight room first? The answer isn't as simple as you think.

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When you walk into the gym, you're faced with a common conundrum: should you head to the treadmills or the weight room first? The answer isn't as simple as you might think. It primarily hinges on your personal fitness goals.

Setting Your Fitness Priorities

The American Council on Exercise offers advice for how to sequence your workouts based on what you're hoping to achieve:

  1. Endurance: If your aim is to improve your endurance, doing cardio before weights is ideal. This allows you to use your energy stores for your run, ride, or swim, helping you go longer and farther.
  2. Weight Loss: For those focusing on weight loss, doing cardio after weights is advisable. Strength training first can help deplete glycogen stores, which means you'll start burning fat sooner when you move on to cardio.
  3. Strength Gains: If your goal is to increase strength, it's better to do cardio after weights. Strength training requires short bursts of energy, and if you've already used up your energy reserves on the treadmill, you might not have enough left to lift effectively.
  4. General Fitness: If you're not training for a specific goal and just want to stay fit, you can choose either sequence, but you might want to start with the one you find more challenging to get it out of the way.

Designing Your Workout Regime

How often should you incorporate cardio and weight training into your weekly routine? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio per week, coupled with strength training at least twice a week.

Breaking it down further, your weekly workout schedule might look something like this:

  • Weight training: 2-4 times per week
  • Low-intensity cardio: 5-7 times per week
  • Moderate-intensity cardio: 3-4 times per week
  • High-intensity cardio: 1-3 times per week

Merging Cardio and Strength Training

The traditional approach has been to dedicate separate days to cardio and weight training. However, combining both types of exercises in a single workout, or even on the same day, is entirely viable.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) routines, for instance, interleave strength and cardiovascular training, delivering substantial results in a condensed timeframe. A study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that this type of combined workout doesn't negatively affect performance levels and can be a more efficient use of limited workout time.

In the end, how you structure your workouts will be largely determined by your personal goals, schedule, and preferences. Always remember to listen to your body and adjust your routines as needed for optimal results. Fitness is a lifelong journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride!

Oath & Grind By Susan Hoff
Run fast, spin hard, lift heavy, work out like crazy. Whatever you do, Oath & Grind is the destination for all things fitness, nutrition, and life.
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Oath & Grind by Susan Hoff is a luxe lifestyle community that blends fashion, fitness, and nutrition to serve as aspiration—because everyone can start a healthy habit, regardless of their age or physique.