What's Best for Fat Loss: Cardio Before Weights or Weights Before Cardio?

When working out with the goal of fat loss, it can help to do a combination of endurance and resistance training – but which should you do first? Get-Fit Guy weighs strength-before-cardio vs. cardio-before-strength.

Ben Greenfield,
July 28, 2014
Episode #196

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For many years, aerobic, endurance exercises have been known to benefit your health and fitness, because they increase the density of important cardiovascular components (like tiny blood-carrying capillaries) and your cell’s powerhouses mitochondria, assist with healthy cholesterol levels, increase blood vessel flexibility, and help with fat loss.;

But resistance training (aka weight training) has also been recognized as having a significant impact on your cholesterol levels, your strength, your lean body mass, and--just like endurance exercise--an increase in fat loss.

So when you step into a gym with the goal of fat loss, it is clear that it can certainly help to do a combination of endurance and resistance training – but the question is, which should you do first? Strength before cardio, or cardio before strength?

The Study

A recent 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 study, entitled “The Effects of a Combined Resistance Training and Endurance Exercise Program in Inactive College Female Subjects: Does Order Matter?,” looked into just that - investigating the effects of the order of exercise on strength, VO2max, body weight, body fat percentage, and lean body mass over the course of an 8-week exercise program.

During the study, the ladies were randomly assigned to perform resistance training either before endurance training, or after. Their training program consisted of 4 workouts per week, for 8 weeks, with each workout lasting about 1 hour. The endurance component of the workout consisted of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, at about 70–80% intensity.

For the resistance training part of the workout, the ladies used a 3-way split routine (chest and back, shoulders and arms, and lower body), performing 3 sets of 8–12 repetitions for 5–6 different exercises. The time between endurance training and resistance training was no more than 5 minutes.

The Results

So what happened?

Overall, there were significant improvements in VO2max, strength and lean body mass after the 8 weeks of combined endurance and resistance. But there was no effect based on exercise order. 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, 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.

When to Do Strength Before Cardio

So how about if you’re an experienced exerciser, and not an “inactive college female subject?" In that case, I’d recommend weight training first. Why?


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