Should you do cardio or weights first at

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Fitness

Published
Feb. 1, 2024, 8:26 p.m. ET

You’re at the gym, ready for the perfect workout — do you start with cardio, or do you lift first?

A group of fitness experts have weighed in on the best way to order your exercise routine, to help you crush your fitness goals.

“The way you structure your workout is very important,” Claudette Sariya, NYC-based fitness coach and personal trainer told The Post.

“That structure will affect the overall outcome and whether or not it is consistent with your goals.”

Adults are advised to move their bodies for about 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, coupled with two sessions of muscle-strengthening, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

To squeeze that all into our busy lives, some might try squeezing both a cardio and strength training workout into the same day.

So, which one comes first?

Adults are advised to move their bodies for about 150 minutes of moderate physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening a week, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
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Neither, says Sariya — not until you stretch properly, something many gym goers fail to take seriously, and at their peril.

“You should always start with a light warmup to get the blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles,” she warned.

Sariya advised warming up with moves that mimic the movements you’ll do in the larger part of your workout and full-body exercises with compound movements — moves that use several muscle groups.

Finally, you’re ready for prime time — most fitness experts agree that you should start with weight training and finish with a cardio workout.

“The primary fuel source for weight lifting is stored sugar in the muscles, called glycogen,” Danny King, CPT, a trainer at Life Time, a chain of health clubs in the U.S. and Canada, told GoodRX Health.

“You will have your best performance if you do [weight lifting] when you have the most fuel available. If you do cardio first, you will deplete some of that glycogen, decreasing your energy. And that will make weight lifting more challenging.”

The first thing any exerciser should do when they step into their workout space is stretch. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sariya agreed, explaining: “If you take on intense cardio before weight training, you’ll pre-fatigue your muscles and won’t be able to lift as heavy or get in as many reps as you would have if you started with weight training.”

Note, however, that the order of your workouts does depend on your fitness goals.

“Whatever is done first will be the priority, both in total energy for the body and available time,” King said.

If you’re working out to build muscle, then start with weights. If you’re training for a half marathon, run straight for that cardio.

Most fitness experts agree that you should start with weight training exercises and finish with a cardio workout. Getty Images/iStockphoto

But if you’re struggling just trying to stay healthy in general, Elle Wermuth, a NYC-based Barry’s instructor, advises doing whatever helps you to “feel the most motivated.”

“Any movement is beneficial for your mind and body…the more you enjoy any workout the more you’ll get out of it and actually give 100% and be present in it,” she said.

“The worst thing you can do is do a workout and feel discouraged the whole time and hate it and half-ass it.”

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