Cardio or Weights, Which Comes First?

I hear such questions about endurance and strength training not only in fitness coaching:

Should I do cardio before or after a workout?

Does the order even matter?

And if so, how does it affect my training result?

If you do it the wrong way, it’s like stepping on the gas and pressing the brakes at the same time. You also risk injuries.

But if you know the ideal solution, you have more power in training and you make faster progress.

Regardless of your goal.

Why there is more than one answer …

“If you hunt several hares, you won’t catch one.”
– proverb

Strength and endurance sports have been an important part of my life for over 16 years.

Until a few years ago, I ran at least one marathon a year. Back then, too, I wanted to get a little bit stronger, but first and foremost was the target time in the marathon competition.

I’ve given up my marathon shoes after 17 marathons and many other competitions.

For several years, weight training has been my top priority. Cardio training is still important to me, but it’s no longer my top priority.

The question of the correct order arose more than once.

If you read on you will understand why the answer for me is different today than it used to be.

So much in advance: If your ultimate goal is to “look good naked”, then you can expect the best results if the right strength training is your first priority.

9 questions that you should ask yourself before you start endurance and strength training

The answer to the question of what the optimal sequence of strength and endurance training is is as individual as our training goals.

In fact, your training goal plays a crucial role.

There are also a few general influencing factors that everyone should take into account.

I will first go into the individual factors before we turn to the general points.

Endurance and strength training #A – Individual factors

The answer depends on your goals.

Therefore, you should answer the following questions first of all.

It is best to write them down on a separate piece of paper.

This not only gives you more clarity for your training plan, but also for your priorities and goals.

  • Training intensity : How intense do you design your endurance and strength training? An example of high-intensity endurance training is HISS and HIIT cardio, while a quiet continuous load, such as an extensive endurance run, has a low intensity. An example of high-intensity muscle building training is HIT (High Intensity Training). The type of muscle building workout I recommend is usually a little less intense.
  • Duration of training : How long does your endurance and strength training session last on average?
  • Fitness level and individual strength : How fit are you in terms of endurance and strength training? In which of the two disciplines do you see your strengths? Rate both strength and endurance on a scale from 1 to 10.
    The higher of the two values ​​represents your current individual strength.
  • Motivation : Which of the two disciplines do you enjoy the most? Endurance or strength training?
  • Objective: What is your personal training goal? Do you want to train for a competition, build muscle or lose weight quickly?
  • Prioritization: If you have several goals, then make a clear decision. Which of your goals is most important, which is second and so on. It’s really important that you rank them!

Did you answer all of the questions?


In addition to your individual profile, there are also very general factors that influence the answer.

Endurance and strength training #B – basic factors

Three factors influence the correct order of your endurance and strength training:

  1. The energy that you can muster for training
  2. The causes of muscular fatigue
  3. The risk of injury during training

You can do your training more intensely, more focused and more efficiently when you are still fresh and rested.

If your batteries are empty, you will also be less effective in training and more likely to injure yourself.

The order of the training units is particularly important if you have a clear goal.

Maybe you want to build muscle, refine your technique or just lose weight.

Of course, it also plays a role whether you are already extremely fit today or whether you still want to become one.

Cardio before or after training: this is how you find the ideal sequence

Many of us can bypass the question of the optimal order by simply doing the endurance and strength training on different days.

Circuit and superset training is an alternative with which we can also get our metabolism into full swing during strength training.

That’s enough for general fitness.

But it’s not the fastest way to look good naked.

Here are 5 possible training goals. Where do you classify yourself?

  1. General fitness.
  2. More stamina.
  3. Lose fat or build muscle.
  4. More performance in a sport.
  5. Just have fun.

There is no one magical solution! For each goal, the perfect order will look slightly different, in some cases it is more important than in others.

We go through the different solutions one by one.

1. Would you like to improve your general fitness?

If you want to improve your fitness in general, it does not matter whether you start with strength training or do an endurance unit first.

In fact, you can combine both elements by creating a training plan with intervals or circuit training.

You could just as easily alternate strength and cardio training if you feel like it.

Advantage : You can train as you like, the focus is on having fun.

2. Would you like to improve your stamina?

In order to develop your endurance, you should also start with cardio or endurance training.

This is the only way to have the energy you need for a hard and long training session.

Attach strength training to your endurance unit 2-3 times a week in order to strengthen your muscles and thus build muscle mass on the one hand and reduce your risk of injury in endurance sports on the other.

If you do strength exercises before a demanding long-distance unit, you risk overloading and injuries in the endurance unit.

If you have 8 hours to regenerate between strength and endurance training, things will be easier.

You can replenish your energy stores with the right diet after exercise.

Then the order only plays a subordinate role – here you can try both: strength in the morning, endurance in the evening or vice versa.

Advantage : You achieve optimal results when building your endurance and minimize the risk of injury.

3. Do you want to lose fat or build muscle?

If you want to lose fat or build muscle, then you should prioritize strength training.

It is best to do it when the energy source in your muscles – the glycogen – is still high.

If you do a hard cardio session before lifting weights, you will miss your powder too soon – and your strength training will be less effective.

If you have ever tried to train sarcoplasmic muscle building when you are tired, you know what I’m talking about.

You don’t get your horsepower on the road and you get hurt more easily.

On the other hand, a light endurance training following an intensive muscle building training can be implemented without any problems.

Advantage : You achieve optimal training results with muscle building and fat loss.

4. Would you like to get better in a special sport?

If you train for a specific sport, you have to knit your training plan so that it meets the needs of your sport.

Whether you do strength or endurance training first depends, as you can probably already guess, on the sport, but also on your fitness and your overarching goals.

If you are not sure which training plan is right for your sport, you should look for a personal trainer or sports coach that you trust.

Competitive athletes train according to a scheme that is divided into daily, weekly and monthly periods and catapults them to their high performance at the time they want – usually in the competitive season.

At the beginning of your cycle you will complete general basic training.

In the course of time, they focus more and more on certain sport-specific priorities, techniques and also take care of the psychological components of their training in order to reach the top of their performance in the competition.

Your program has a pyramidal structure and includes all fitness factors: strength, endurance, flexibility, flexibility, psychology, etc …

Advantage : You achieve top performance in your sport.

5. You just want to do sports regularly?

If you want to stay on the ball and sport should remain part of your life, then you want to integrate your training units into your daily routine and balance them with other things that are important to you (work, family, friends, …).

Then it is best if you put together your training plan in such a way that it works for your body under these framework conditions.

Perhaps you will feel best when you start cardio and then do strength training.

Perhaps your body will react better if you go running one day and do a dumbbell workout in the gym the next day.

It is completely okay if you follow your body feeling when you put together your training plan.

Advantage : You can adapt your training to your mood and your environment, the focus is on having fun.


“Should I do cardio before or after a workout?”

I hope I was able to help you answer this question and bring more clarity to your goals and your training plan.

Not only do we all look different on the outside, our body also reacts differently to training stimuli. What works for Peter doesn’t have to apply to Clarissa – everyone is different.

So give it a try, choose one of the variants – suitable for your training goal – and do your own “scientific” experiments.

If you measure your progress – I recommend a training diary to everyone who stays at it – you should be able to determine the effect of the training sequence on your results (energy, physique, training performance, mood, diet, …) fairly precisely.


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