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Strength training or cardio first? No wait, it’s cardio then strength training. By now, you probably have seen this debate unfold in a number of ways. We all want to build a lean, fit body but not everyone wants to bulk up. Women are most of time looking tone their body without having bulky muscle. But we know if you desire that lean body, sticking to the treadmill or elliptical just isn’t enough. 

Strength training is equally important as cardio. A regular fitness routine should include a balance of both for optimal health benefits as well as keeping your weight at bay. Even those who are just focused on running need to incorporate strength training into their routine. But the question is when you’re in a hurry with say only an hour or half hour to spare, which should you tackle first? 

Much research shows that strength training should be first. Here’s why. 


The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a study that compared three workout tactics against each other. There was strength training alone, running then strength training or cycling followed by strength training. Exercisers tended to do less weight lifting reps if they had just done some form of cardio. But doing strength training with no cardio beforehand resulted in more reps. 

Many trainers say that exercisers feel stronger when they engage in resistance training first. Many other studies show that aerobic training can negatively affect the development of strength, endurance and flexibility when performed prior to lifting. But research is lacking on the reverse effect, meaning it could be a one-way street at the moment. 

The reason many say strength training first stems from the physiological changes in the muscles that help you move. When those fibers are tired out before resistance exercises, your form and endurance will likely suffer. 

Cardio matters most when it comes to fighting fat. Now, both resistance exercises and aerobic workouts are crucial but when you gain muscle it raises your metabolic rate. This helps you burn fat faster. Doing both decreases body fat by a lot according to most research on the subject. 

If you want to lose weight? Kick up your cardio, even if that means skipping some weights or other resistance training. 

Remember this rule of thumb: Strength training changes your shape. Cardio changes your size.