Logo NHC

Workout Wednesday: Cardio or Weight Training First?


So, you’ve caved and finally decided to really commit to your fitness goals by joining a gym. You kind of have an idea of what you want to do, but one question remains.

Does cardio or weight training come first?

The answer is easier than you think. Keep reading to find out more!

What Should I Do First?

Making the decision to join a gym or to start working out every day can be an exciting one. You’re pumped. You’re ready to do this. And then you realize that it’s kind of confusing.

What do you do first? Don’t worry. You’re not the only person to wonder that. There are some things to keep in mind when figuring out where to begin.

What are these things? Your goals.

When most people set out on a fitness journey, they have set goals in mind. Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle mass, increase your flexibility, or something else entirely, your end goal plays a key role in determining what you’ll do first at the gym.

For Weight Loss

If weight loss is your ultimate goal, you’ll want to start with cardio. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting any new fitness routine. According to an article in Huffington Post:

The cardio will deplete your body’s supply of glycogen — the stored form of glucose in muscle cells and a primary material in our energy storage. Once glycogen is depleted, the body turns to more long-term storage sources, like fat.

For Muscle Gain

If your goal is to build more muscle, then starting with weights is the best idea. According to IdeaFit.com, “Strength training is not likely to deplete glycogen stores, because a lot of the workout time is spent resting between sets and exercises” (Source).

Remember to start at a weight that is comfortable for you. Strength training may seem daunting, so starting on the low end and slowly working upward is a great way to test and challenge yourself without overdoing it right away.

For Both

Many people have goals that involve both weight loss and muscle gains, but it’s important to keep track of what you’re doing at the gym, and how often. The Director of Continuing Education for the National Academy of Sports Medicine states the following:

Exhausting oneself with a big run right before weights and resistance training doesn’t just up the risk of injury, it also means you’ll have less energy to throw into a really good weight training session (Source).

Cardio and weight training may complement each other, too. Jeff Halevy, a personal trainer says, “When it comes to analyzing the percentage weight loss that’s comprised of fat versus lean tissue like muscle, weights have cardio beat overall” (Source).

The Bottom Line

Remember, it is also extremely important to take your health into account when deciding what to do and when. Talk with your health care provider, as well as your personal trainer (if you plan to use one), and determine the best course of fitness for your goals, as well as your overall health. Certain health issues may be better suited to completing cardio first or vice versa.

A new fitness journey may be confusing, but don’t let it deter you from reaching your goals. You’re exercising—even if you’re unsure of the “right way” to do it—and that’s what matters.