Is It Best to Lift Weights Before or After Cardio?

By Ryan Halvorson
Apr 16, 2014

There’s a long-standing debate about whether order matters when combining cardiovascular exercise and strength training in a single session. Is it best, for example, to hit the treadmill before or after heading to the weight room? Researchers from the University of Jyväskylä, in Finland, believe they have the answer.

Their 24-week study included 34 men, aged 18-40, who completed two to three workouts per week that included both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Subjects were separated into two groups: cardio then strength, and strength then cardio. Contents of the workouts were identical. All the men underwent an incremental bike test to measure endurance and a dynamic leg press to measure strength. Body composition and blood lipid data were procured at baseline and at the end of the study.

So what did the scientists learn?

“Time to exhaustion, aerobic power and 1RM strength significantly increased in the two groups at week 24 but no between-group difference was observed,” they explained. “Similarly, the two groups significantly increased total lean mass and muscle cross-sectional area at week 24 to a similar extent. No significant changes in body fat or blood lipids were observed in either of the two groups at week 24.”

And there you have it. When it comes to combining strength and cardio workouts, significant improvements are possible, regardless of the order you choose.

The study was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000303).

PHOTOGRAPHY: Spirit-Fire

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Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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