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In the gym: Cardio or Weights first?

The Fitness Industry and how you approach programming your workout is always changing. When I first started all those years ago, the general philosophy was to get your 20 mins cardio in before your workout. More and more people today believe it should be after a weights session.

One of the reasons to get weights in first is so you're not fatigued lifting later which could decrease your potential gains in strength and power! Especially if your cardio involves interval training, stop-start cardio (e.g. rower or sprints), pushing yourself to your limits before attempting compound, taxing moves such as Squats or Deadlifts. By doing this, you are increasing the risk of injury. 

There is always contradicting information online and the topic of cardio or weights first is no exception. Some will say there is favourable hormone change and blood ph to lower performance and fatigue by doing weights first  where as other studies will suggest that testosterone levels can actually increase with moderate cardio first.

Personally, I don’t think a complete cardio and weights session should be done together. I believe the time to do both as well as the recovery time and fatigue levels are too great to adequately do both. If I was in the gym, after a warm up, I would spend a lot of my time doing my weights program, dedicated the last 10-15 mins towards a more cardio based finisher which would depend on the exercises I was doing (2km runs after legs day, rower intervals after back days, burpee challenges after chest days etc). I would then use a different day to do sprint training or a 5km run.


  1. You feel good doing cardio before hand and feel like you are getting a good workout in the weights area after cardio. You despise doing weights first then I wouldn't change it. How you feel towards your programme goes a long way in getting results out of your programme.
  2. Cardio Endurance is your goal! Every programme should be goal orientated and if your primary focus in the gym is lifting weights first when you’re training for long distance running, it doesn’t really make much sense.

If you decide weights are first, I would still recommend a 10 minute warm up with emphasis on the muscles you’re going to be using in the workouts, not just increasing your heart rate. Doing 10 mins on the treadmill, stretching the legs and jumping straight into a heavy bench press logically makes zero sense but happens all the time. Warm up the main body parts you are doing first! Personally, my first exercise would be a compound exercise, very light weight with a few reps and work my way up to the target sets-reps range over 3-4 sets before getting into my main weights workout.