Faster Fat Loss: Cardio Before Weights or Weights Before Cardio?

Find out the latest news on which works best for fat loss: is it cardio before weights, or weights before cardio?

Ben Greenfield
4-minute read
Episode #261

It’s been over a year since I published What's Best for Fat Loss: Cardio Before Weights or Weights Before Cardio? But recently, a brand new study emerged, which looked into this very question and came to some very interesting conclusions that you should know about if you want to lose fat, but you’re not quite sure how to ideally mix cardiovascular aerobic training and weight lifting.

For many years, cardio has been known to benefit your health and fitness because aerobic exercise increases the density of important cardiovascular components, like tiny blood-carrying capillaries, and also builds your cells' energy-producing mitochondria, assists with healthy cholesterol levels, increases blood vessel flexibility, helps with fat loss, and more.

On the other hand, resistance training (aka weight training) has also been shown to have a significant impact on cholesterol levels, strength, lean body mass, and fat loss.

So if your goal is fat loss (along with full body fitness), it is clear that it can certainly help to do a combination of both cardio and resistance training—but the question is, which should you do first: weights before cardio, or cardio before weights?                                 

The Research on Cardio Before Weights or Weights Before Cardio

Last year, a study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research looked into whether the order of resistance training and endurance exercise during a workout actually affects fat loss. The Effects of a Combined Resistance Training and Endurance Exercise Program in Inactive College Female Subjects: Does Order Matter? investigated the effects of the ordering of exercise on strength, VO2max, body weight, body fat percentage, and lean body mass over the course of an eight-week exercise program.

During the study, the inactive college females were randomly assigned to perform resistance training either before endurance training or after. Their training program consisted of four workouts per week for eight weeks, with each workout lasting about one hour. The cardio component of the workout consisted of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, at about 70-80% intensity.

For the weights part of the workout, the ladies used a three-way split routine (chest and back, shoulders and arms, and lower body), performing three sets of 8–12 repetitions for 5–6 different exercises. The time between cardio and weights was no more than 5 minutes. So, what were the results?

Overall, the ladies experienced significant improvements in VO2max, strength and lean body mass after the eight weeks of combined endurance and resistance. But there was no effect based on exercise order of weights before cardio or cardio before weights. In addition, the only participants who saw changes in body fat percentage were those who made dietary changes and began to eat better.

So, in other words, what that study showed was that if you’re just getting started in exercise and your goal is fat loss, it ultimately doesn’t matter whether you do strength or cardio first—and no matter which you choose, you simply aren’t going to see results unless you change your diet, too.


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.