When there’s only 45 minutes to spend at the gym, efficiency is king. To maximum results, we asked our Fitness Expert Kristy Wilson which came first: the cardio or the strength training?
Kristy Wilson, NSCA, NASM: The answer to this question really depends on what the end goal is. If cardiovascular endurance is the ultimate prize, then knock out a cardio session first. If the goal is to improve strength, power, or muscle size, head over to the weight room for strength training. The reason being you will want to have as much energy as possible to perform these activities.
For the majority of exercisers, however, the order of the workout is not all that important and really comes down to what will work best for each individual.
There is a fitness myth that says “doing cardio after strength training will help the body use more fat as fuel since all the muscle carbohydrate stores will have been depleted during the strength training session.”
But the truth is this myth is exactly that, just a myth. It is highly unlikely that the body will completely use up all its carbohydrate stores during the strength training workout. And even if that did happen, cardio exercise requires a combination of both muscle carbohydrate and fat to fuel the activity. Really the only time the body comes close to using fat as the only fuel source is during sleep.
So in the end, if general toning and fitness or weight loss is the goal, it really doesn’t matter which mode of training is first. What does matter is your personal preference-- whatever helps you to workout, with consistency and with your best effort, is best.