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When You Exercise Should You Do Cardio or Strength Training First?

by Beverly Bird

Both aerobics and strength-training offer many health and weight loss benefits. Supporters of each tend to claim that their way is best, but the reality is that a balance of both makes for optimal fitness. You should not do both every day because the muscles you’ve worked out in strength-training require a day of rest afterward. But on days when you do engage in both, you should strength-train first, before doing your cardio or aerobic activity.

Warm-Up

If you are going to combine a day of weight or resistance training with a cardio workout, warm up first. You can stretch, walk briskly or any other light activity you prefer, as long as you warm your muscles prior to any strenuous activity. Try to devote 10 minutes to your warm up. If you are out of shape and just starting an exercise program, you might break a sweat sooner than that, but try to maintain for at least five minutes to warm up all your muscles.

Strength Training

If burning fat is your goal, you must strength-train before cardio. The nature of the activity -- intense, but in segments -- prompts your body to burn glucose or carbohydrates for energy. Resistance training also requires strength and stamina. If you do cardio first, you will deplete your body’s glucose resources and have little strength left for the strength-training part of your program, according to Jim Beatty, a fitness and wellness coach in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

Cardio Activity

If you use up your body’s glucose during weight-training, your body has no option but to burn fat to get you through aerobic exercise afterward. Cardio exercise burns a lot of fuel, so if you’re trying to lose fat, this is a good thing. You’ll feel it, however. Glucose is your body’s preferred source of energy. It will resort to fat-burning only when it has no other choice. And burning fat takes more energy than burning glucose. Expect to feel an energy-drain toward the end of your aerobics session when you do strength-training first. You can avert this a little by limiting your strength training to 20 to 30 minutes.

Diet Considerations

Your body requires water in order to burn fat efficiently. If you’re dehydrated, your body will try to hold onto your fat stores, which contain water. Make sure you have plenty to drink before, during and after your combined workout. If your diet is heavy in carbohydrates, you might need to extend your strength training for a few more minutes to burn off your glucose levels before switching over to cardio to burn fat.

Photo Credits:

  • Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.