Fitness Articles

Low on Energy? Do Cardio First

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Most experts have an opinion on this sequence—the best order for burning fat, building muscle, or overall effectiveness. But, if you want more energy, researchers at the University of Rhode Island found that 20 minutes of cardio followed by basic strength training works best. Participants reported having more energy throughout their workout when they did cardio first, compared to subjects who did cardio last. Why? Strength training breaks down your muscle fibers (which is great for strength training), but this leaves you fatigued during your aerobic exercise afterward.

Action Sparked
If you’ve been doing weights first, your cardio session may suffer. When you're tired during cardio, you’ll compensate by slowing down, putting in less time, and ultimately burn fewer calories. Switch it up for a high-energy, calorie-blasting workout.
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Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • Thanks for the info. That's while I felt drain somedays. - 9/30/2013 4:19:25 PM
  • Interesting article. I'm doing ST at the gym tonight, but I think I'll start with a 20 minute cardio to see how this works for me. - 8/24/2012 2:03:21 PM
  • It's true. Yesterday I ran 5km then did my lower body strength training, and cooled down with a 1/2 mile slow walk and then stretched. Tons of calories burned, I would recommend doing cardio first always, followed by strength training. - 8/30/2011 12:00:32 PM
  • Yes! So it's not just me. - 8/30/2011 11:59:53 AM
  • ALEXANDRA64
    I agree as well, it helps even if it is a little bit. My trainer always has me do at least 5 minutes of cardio before we begin my training session and it makes a difference. - 1/14/2011 8:04:30 AM
  • I agree 100%. I tried doing my strength first and just didn't seem to have the drive to do the cardio next. I find when I do my cardio first I've already gotten the muscles warmed up. I do some quick stretching and then move into my strength training portion. That way all the sweating is done. I always make sure to do stretching as my end to keep muscle soreness at bay. By doing this combo I have more energy throughout the day. - 6/29/2010 12:27:02 PM
  • I get through my weights first, then cardio and I feel like I can rock through the session...so although the study is true for some, I think its different for me - 3/31/2010 11:19:40 PM
  • Although I think this makes sense from a "higher energy" perspective, I still like to do weights first because I find that I have less muscle soreness when I follow the lifting with a bit of steady movement. Plus, I get a lot sweatier from cardio and feel funny about sitting down on the weight equipment with all that *glisten* going on! - 1/14/2010 11:30:12 AM
  • CATHEITE
    I agree with the author. Cardio first has always worked for me. I don't think it disrupts my energy or form for weight lifting. - 8/17/2009 11:29:22 PM
  • MARY671
    This makes sense!! - 7/16/2009 8:10:59 AM
  • I do weights first because I sweat a lot during cardio and I intensely dislike sitting and walking around in my sweat. In addition, I am prone to break outs so I like to head to the shower very quickly. - 2/13/2009 7:36:27 PM
  • Since people sit on both sides of the cardio first or second fence, I think its best to do what works best for you.

    I prefer cardio first so I finish cooling down while I am strength training. Plus I am all warmed up and loose. - 1/26/2009 9:48:31 PM
  • I recently join a Gym....Ya Me...The Fitness instructor had designed a program for me...I was doing 20min of cardio followed by 20min of Strength then another 20min of cardio. When I finished my ST I was too exhausted to do my last session of cardio. I had to force myself to hold on to the sides of the treadmill. This week I'm switching it up by putting in 30min cardio...20min ST and then 10min Cardio. It seems to work out for me so far.

    Thanks for the Article

    Patricia - 1/26/2009 8:44:29 PM
  • This is so true. I decided to do 30 mins of cardio first and I have so much strength to do weights after. - 1/16/2009 2:52:00 AM
  • BLUESKIESAHEAD
    I have never heard this perspective before. If you have to do the two at the same time, you're supposed to do the weights first. Reason being, if you get all tired out from cardio, by the time you get to weights your form will be off and you'll risk hurting yourself, or at the very least not getting very much out of it. Doing one in the morning and one at night is better, though... - 11/15/2008 1:22:56 PM
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