Should you do cardio before or after a workout?

Advice will differ depending on your goals

Are you someone who is time-limited, gets up early and trains as much as possible before work, knowing you won’t be able to get back to the gym until later in the week. More is better, right? Not necessarily so and going for both cardio and a workout in the same session, may slow your gains if you are attempting to build muscle mass.

One of the most pressing questions for gym goers is when you should perform your cardio in conjunction with your weightlifting. Should it be pre or post-lifting weights, be avoided as it could harm your gains and would you be better off doing it on a separate day?

Before we delve into the science, it is important to first acknowledge that research is great for informing us on our next steps to take and so on, but another important factor to take is that we all differ.  If you are already doing your cardio a certain way combined with your weightlifting, and it works for you and you feel great, keep at it!

According to the latest advice, the best way for you to do your cardio, regardless if it is HIIT, LISS or similar is to perform it after you lift weights. This is especially important if you perform intense bouts of cardio as you will deplete your glycogen levels which are your muscles main source of fuel, thus depleting the benefit of your lifts. Of course, depending on your goals, this could be different.

If your goal is to increase your endurance performance, e.g. run faster or longer, then you should aim to do the cardio before your weights. If you want to lose weight, improve strength or build muscle, lift weights first. Additionally, if you are just a general gym-goer looking to keep fit and aren’t specifically bothered about improving strength or endurance, then we recommend, if you want/need to do both, then do the one you least enjoy first, this will ensure that you are fully motivated to do what you enjoy at the end of the workout.

Again, much here depends on preference, or if you’re pressed for time, here is something we at Short Motivation have been trying out lately: perform your cardio in between your weightlifting sets. Usually, we’ll introduce rest times of 45+ seconds between sets, which is more than enough to squeeze in kettlebell swings, or why not grab a skipping rope and perform 100+ jumps? This all depends on your goals, but this is certainly a time efficient way to fit it all in.


About Author

Alex is a keen fitness and nutrition enthusiast, residing in the US, and contributes to travel, fitness and nutrition tips, news and other interesting tidbits.