If you enjoy lifting weights and doing cardio, you’ve probably asked yourself the following question: Should I do cardio before or after weights?
Granted, there are some strong arguments on both sides, and it can be difficult to decide for yourself. To that end, we’ve put together this post to share our ideas and anecdotes to help you make more informed decisions. Ready? Let’s jump in.
Should I Do Cardio Before or After Weights?
Should you do cardio before or after weights? Why not both?
The truth is, we often look at fitness-related questions as either/or. It’s one or the other, black or white, good or bad, hot or cold.
Well, the answer to this question is a bit more nuanced, and there are very good reasons to do cardio before and after your workouts.
Cardio Before or After Weight Lifting? Before and After
Before Weights: A great warm-up for 10-15 minutes is the best protection against injury! Get your blood flowing, and your muscles loose and supple and ready to attack the workout! Most injuries occur because the body is not ready for resistance, and the muscles are cold and stiff.
After Weights: A great time to burn calories and achieve your fit level. So if you’re goal is to get lean, then no better time for 10-20 minutes of cardio then after resistance training. Also a great time for a quick HIIT workout, which will help you to burn calories long after you leave the gym.
Doing some light cardio before lifting weights is beneficial because it loosens up your muscles and gets the blood flowing. We recommend doing 10-15 minutes of light cardio before lifting weights. This ensures your muscles, joints, and blood flow are fully warmed up. It’s the very best way to avoid injury.
This might not seem like a big deal to some people, but as you get older you will become much more susceptible to injury. So it becomes increasingly important to properly warm-up before weight lifting.
Cardio after training is beneficial because it cools you down and helps you loosen up after the intense session. You can do it for 10-30 minutes, depending on your fitness goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, then you’ll want to burn extra calories so lean towards 20-30 minutes of cardio after weight lifting. Or consider doing a HIIT session on the treadmill for 10 minutes.
With that said, here are some specific recommendations for folks with an average fitness level or higher:
How to Go About Cardio Before Weight Training
Perform 10-15 minutes of jogging or walk-jogging on a treadmill at a modest speed of 3.0 to 5.5 mph. This speed (3.0 – 5.5 mph) covers the spectrum from a medium brisk walk to a slow jog. This is easy on your joints, and a great warm-up routine.
Doing cardio before weight training is incredibly beneficial, but you should go about it intelligently.
First, keep in mind that your body will be somewhat stiff, and you should take some time to ramp up the intensity. So always best to start off with 2 minutes of walking at 3.0 or 3.5 speed on the Treadmill.
On most treadmills, the speed indicates the miles per hour – mph. So when you adjust the speed up to 4.0, that is 4 mph. And if you want to convert that to minutes per mile simple divide into 60.
So 4.0 mph is a 15-minute mile (60/4 = 15 minutes per mile).
And 6.0 mph is a 10-minute mile (60/6 = 10 minutes per mile).
And as a reference, the fastest mph ever recorded by a human? That would be Usain Bolt from Jamaica recorded at 27.8 mph, which is just over a 2-minute mile. So make sure not to try that on the treadmill 😂!
So, avoid intense cardio before you’re fully warmed up. Instead, start with something as simple as walking on the treadmill and slowly transition into a jog (3.0 to 5.5 speed).
By doing that, you’ll ensure that your body is fully prepared for the workout and that you’ve reduced the risk of injury.
Doing Cardio After Weights
After weight training, there are three good options for cardio:
- HIIT on a Treadmill
- Jogging / Brisk Walking on Treadmill
- Stationery Bike
HIIT on a Treadmill
The benefits of HIIT are well-documented at this point.
The key is you need to be at a fit level to perform cardio. It is not an exercise for beginners, and can be dangerous due to the exertion levels. It is intense and will put a burden on your body.
Here is the routine for HIIT:
Ten minutes of high-intensity interval training on a treadmill. Walk for one minute at 3 mph then run fast for 30 seconds at 7 to 8.5 mph. Alternate for 10 minutes and call it a workout. If you do it that way, your 30-second sprints will be at the following times:
Learn all the details about this 10-minute HIIT workout at the gym.
Things To Keep In Mind For Your Cardio Session After Weight Lifting
First, you need to keep in mind that you’ll be somewhat fatigued after lifting weights, so you should avoid doing too demanding of a cardio program. This is especially paramount if you plan on doing cardio activities like running after training your legs.
Also, try to keep the cardio session relatively brief and intense. Avoid doing too much cardio after lifting weights as that will only pile more muscle fatigue and deplete your glycogen even further.
Do a quick HIIT routine for ten minutes, be mindful of your technique, and get back home to rest and eat.
Cardio Before or After Weights? Both!
Cardio and lifting complement one another, and plenty of impressive athletes use them together successfully. So cardio before or after weights is a personal decision, but for most people, the best answer is both. It is the healthiest option in terms of avoiding injury, as well as burning calories and staying fit.
Hopefully, our suggestions have helped you understand how to combine them better and that doing so doesn’t have to be detrimental to your fitness progress.
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