One of the most frequently asked questions we get is how to sequence our resistance training and cardio.There are many guidelines for exercise; how long, what type, how many days and the intensity. All of the scenarios and all of the exceptions can make finding the right exercise a little confusing!  So how do we know that what we are doing is really effective?


The answer? It depends…on you.


What are your goals? Fat loss? Weight loss? Get stronger? Have more energy?


Do you hate exercise? Love it? Hate cardio? Love resistance training? What motivates you?


Too many questions?? First, let’s look at some studies and then let’s talk about how to determine what works best for YOU.


Research has shown that combining cardio with resistance training is time efficient, allows you to get in the frequency of both and can burn the most calories. You will want to do the cardio portion first and then move on to resistance training. So, if we maximize our caloric expenditure by starting with cardio, how does that impact muscular fitness development? There is a mistaken belief that performing aerobic activity first will negatively impact muscular fitness development.  Studies have shown that intra-session sequencing of aerobic and resistance activities do not negatively influence the change in muscular fitness. Another piece of supporting evidence for aerobic-resistance order is that data exists to show resistance training prior to aerobic exercise impairs muscle metabolism and contraction, contributing to premature fatigue. (1)


A recent ACE-commissioned study found that performing cardio exercise after resistance training created a heart-rate response that was 12 beats per minute higher for the exact same workout intensity and duration. This would seem to present clear evidence that cardio should be performed first due to the increase in perceived effort from this shift in heart rate and a potential shifting of the intensity from “moderate” to “vigorous” with no modifications to external intensity. (2)


However, this doesn’t mean that everybody needs to do cardio before resistance training.  Some studies conclude that it’s better to perform resistance training first because it depletes the body’s carbohydrates stores, which means it uses slightly more fat for fuel. (2)


Still unsure?


If your primary goal is to lose weight, calorie expenditure should be the main focus.


Here’s a chart provided by the American Council on Exercise. Based on your needs and goals and the questions we asked above, this may help clarify what you should be doing and when.




What if I like boot camps or high intensity interval training? These workouts tend to be a combination of both cardio and resistance training. The structure of the workout is typically short bouts of both, with rest in between. We say ok to that. If you prefer these types of workouts, there is no reason to feel you have to be on a more rigid schedule of cardio first/ resistance training first.


What we can confirm is that no matter what you decide, the warm up should always come first and stretching should come at the end of the workout, after the cooldown is performed. If something is working for you, that’s great! We would love to know what works for you.


Still have questions? We can help by getting more information about what your goals are and plan a program specific to your needs. Contact us for more information.






  1. “Are your Clients Performing the Right Kind of Exercise at the Right Time?”. Accessed 20, December 2015.
  2. “Which Should Come First: Cardio or Strength Training?”. Accessed 4, January 2016.
  3. Image courtesy of Master isolated images at




President, Personal Training Manager at Body By Brent LLC