Should You Strength Train Before Or After Cardio?

Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman discusses the advantages of doing either endurance exercise or strength training first, and methods to maximize adaptations to both exercise modalities.

Video Transcription:

Should You Lift Weights Before Or After Cardiovascular Exercise?

Good morning family of fast. Matt Mosman, the Chief Endurance Officer over at EndurElite.

Today, we're gonna answer one of life's great questions. And that is, beer before liquor or liquor before beer?

Now, on one end, you might never ever be sicker. On the other hand, you might be in the clear.

And I really started to test this hypothesis back at a frat party when I was presented with a Budweiser and a bottle of whiskey.

Take-Home Points

Okay, so we're not gonna answer that great question today. We're gonna actually answer the other great question of life.

And that is, should you do endurance exercise before or after you strength train?

Now, in the event, you don't have time to watch this whole video, here is what you need to know.

  1. If gaining size and strength is your main goal, you're gonna wanna do weight lifting first.
  2. If improvements in cardiovascular fitness are your main goal, then you're gonna wanna do cardio first.
  3. Now, which one you decide really to do and how it's affected, really depends on cellular signaling and adaptations to the various exercise modalities, whether it's the strength training or the endurance exercise.
  4. Last point is, in an ideal world, you would wanna separate endurance exercise and strength training by at least six hours if not more or do them on separate days for the greatest adaptations.

Now, I know that's not reasonable for some people, especially like OCR athletes that do both exercises modalities on certain days.

So let's just kind of get in more of the nuts and bolts of this video as far as which one you should do first.

Cardio Or Weights First?

Now, usually, the arguments that you're gonna hear are:

  • "You should do cardio first or endurance exercise because it's a good warm-up and it's a lot more enjoyable to do it before strength training than after."
  • On the other side of the coin, you'll hear, "You should do weight training first because if you do cardio before that, you'll go into the strength training fatigued and you won't get as great of adaptations."
  • And then, some people just say, "You know what? It doesn't really matter. You can do either or first and it's really not gonna affect adaptation." So what's the right answer here? It's all very confusing.

If Size And Strength Are You Main Goals; Lift Weights First

And, again, I'll go back to a point I made in the first part of this video.

If gaining strength and size is your main goal, you definitely want to weight train before you do your endurance exercise.

And here's why basically.

If you're doing cardio before you weight train

  1. you're going into the weight training in the fatigued state.
  2. Two, you're going into glycogen depleted state.
  3. And three, the cellular signaling between endurance exercise and strength training is different, and this is all related to something called AMPK.

So on one hand, strength training signals more of an anabolic response. It makes you stronger, bigger, muscle fibers wanna grow and get stronger.

On the other hand, doing cardio beforehand sends a different signal that basically says, "We're gonna make these muscle fibers more fatigue resistant and smaller."

So the signaling really interferes with one another. So again, if strength and size is your main goal, you're gonna wanna do it before your endurance exercise.

What Does The Research Say About Cardio Before Strength Training?

And there are some cool studies behind this.

One, in particular, took a group of... basically 3 groups of 10 men, and these researchers split them up.

  • One group, they just had to do as many reps as possible of half-squats at 80% of one-repetition max.
  • The other group did 30 minutes of HIIT training followed by the same squat workout.
  • And then, the last group also did HIIT training with the running modality and did the same lower body workout.
  • And that second group did a cycling HIIT training.
And basically, what they found is that the group that didn't do any kind of cardio activity before strength training were able to do more reps and, basically, a higher volume of work, so reps and weight.

When To Do Cardio Before Weights

So again, take-home point here is, if you're wanna get stronger, you're gonna wanna do weight lifting before endurance exercise.

But if you're a hardcore endurance athlete who is more concerned about running great in your marathon, or a track race, or a mountain bike event, and that's your main goal, you're gonna wanna do the endurance exercise before the weight training.

Because again, you're just training for different adaptations. And whichever one is more important to you, honestly, is the one that you wanna do first.

So what's really the take-home point? I'm gonna repeat it again.

  • If strength and size is your main goal, do the weight training before the endurance exercise.
  • If performing at a higher level of endurance performance...or, not a higher level, but that's kind of your main goal, do the endurance exercise first.
  • Go and do your long runs, your intervals on your cycles, etc., etc., etc.

But both actually, at the end of the day, are very important. Each kind of gives you unique benefits that both play together really well in terms of making you a better endurance athlete, especially for like you, OCR types, that do like the TMX or the Spartan Stadium sprints.

That cardiovascular fitness and that raw power and strength all play together really, really, really good.

So in those cases, you definitely wanna incorporate both.

But again, the take-home point is, if you can separate the two exercises by six hours or more or if you can do them on different days, the adaptations of each exercise modality isn't gonna interfere with one another quite as much.

So that is all I have for today, my endurance friends. I hope that just itched that scratch that was burning your mind if you should do endurance exercise or strength training first. If you have a buddy that's also questioning this, please share this video with them. If you want other content on endurance training, nutrition, and supplementation, and everything in between, subscribe to the EndurElite YouTube channel or head on over to the EndurElite blog at Get social with us on Instagram and our Facebook training and nutrition club page. And until next time my endurance friends, stay fueled, stay focused, and stay fast.