Two images of Emily Skye show her lifting weights and running on the spot,
Emily Skye

Cardio or strength?

Emily Skye

When you start your work out, what do you head to first: the treadmill or the weights? As we know by now, you can’t expect to get the most out of your workout by only doing one of the two – fat burn and building lean muscles is achieved by incorporating both cardio and weights. But where to start?

Most think that doing cardio before strength training is better, as cardio can act as a warm-up to the more intense movements of weighted exercises. However, recent studies have looked into what benefits you most – starting your workout with cardio before you hit the weights or vice versa. I've studied the studies and discovered that there can be benefits to both. To decide what's best for you, read on...


In a study case, subjects who did some running or cardiovascular exertion before starting their weight training showed a decrease in reps and overall power. Doing cardio affects the performance of weight exercises as the body becomes fatigued and cannot perform as well to get out more reps or lift higher weights. Whether we do cardio before or after weights, the actual improvements in cardiovascular health were neither benefited nor hindered. So, cardiovascular fitness is not affected, yet strength training is.

Strength training

Your strength and form during weight exercises can be at its optimum, as the body won’t become fatigued by doing cardio before you start.

It appears cardio should be done after strength training, although it really depends on your personal goals. If your goal is to increase muscle mass and strength, then you will want to perform at higher reps and weights and maximum performance – so to hold off on the cardio ‘til after you complete your weights. If you want to increase overall fitness, and burn fat, then it doesn’t make much of a difference with which is done first, so mix it up!

In the end, there is no point worrying over which to do first. The key thing is that you are working out and sticking to it to reach your goals. If you have very specific training goals, then you may want to look at doing your weights first to concentrate on specific targets. But either way, the main thing is that you are being active and working towards your goals!

Emily Skye
Personal trainer • Founder

Emily Skye is a strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness. She is also co-founder of James Cosmetics and a mother of two.

Emily Skye
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