Is It Better To Do Cardio Before Or After Lifting Weights To Burn Fat

So there you are at the gym and the first thing you do when you walk in is get on the treadmill and then you go about your weight training.  Or maybe it is the other way around and you go to the weights before you do your cardio.  But in reality, is it better to do cardio before or after lifting weights in order to burn fat?

Every year there is some study that point to one or the other conclusion as being “definitive.”  But is it really true that one method works more than another or is it just a way for fitness magazines to sell more issues and subscriptions?

For anyone interested in burning more fat hearing news that a specific method works best is always something that will be welcome with open arms or open ears.  The theory that gets mentioned more often is that performing some form of cardiovascular exercise before doing weights will burn fat and calories more effectively.

The theory goes like this, you begin your cardio and you have now elevated your metabolism and are beginning to burn calories so by adding weight training to your workout you are now going to burn even more calories.

In reality there is no significant advantage whether one method burns more fat or calories than the other.

What does work is a combination of the two.  Cardio workouts alone will not help you drastically in getting fit.  Lifting weights alone will help more than doing cardio alone, but in order to look lean and athletic a combination of the two is best.

Cardio done before or after lifting weights is a matter of preference

Think about the times you are about to start your workout.  You get on the treadmill or stationary bike and hit it hard for 30 minutes.  Once you are done you are huffing and puffing and drenched in sweat.  Are you ready to go another 30 minutes lifting heavy weights?  Probably not, so you either quit or want to go home or you battle it out and do a mediocre workout.

However, when you start by doing weights you will finish your workout and still have the energy to get a good cardio workout, that is unless you have been doing leg workouts, in this case I forgive you…

But don’t get me wrong I know a few people who begin their workouts with cardio and they tell me that they feel like they have a new boost in energy after a good jog or run.  For them starting with cardio before weights is easier than leaving it at the end of their routine.

Like I said it is a matter of preference.  Think of your situation and how your body responds best.  Are you the type that feels drained with cardio exercises?  Then leave them to the very end of your routine.

Are you the type that feels revitalized and with a shot of adrenaline after a good run?  Well feel free to begin your workouts this way before lifting weights.

If you are like me and feel best leaving your cardio after your weight training then do the following:

  • Warm up with a light walk or jog for 5-10 minutes
  • Do weight lifting for 30-60 minutes (no more than 60 minutes)
  • Do cardiovascular workout of any type for 20-30 minutes

This technique works best for those who are like myself.  However, if you feel best leaving the weights at the end then by all means do it that way.

Working out should not be like the riddle of the sphinx, where one answer is definitive or a do-or-die scenario.  Have fun when getting in shape.

Do not focus so much on the latest “study” that is being pitched by the media.  Simply combine the two types and do either cardio before or after lifting weights, depending on your preference and you will look fit and look athletic sooner than you think.


  1. Personally I find what works best for me is to do weight sessions by themselves as this will be intense enough if you do it right I don’t even want to hang around the gym after that.
    I do hardly any cardio because it doesn’t do much for my fat loss dieting does drops my fat.
    And when I do some cardio its on non-weight training days so for me I can make each workout cardio or weights as intense as it needs to be … but if I have to do it the same day cardio is done after usually its just a steady state jog more of a warm down.
    Good topic to bring up as I see a lot of people confused and just make their time very inefficient.

  2. Hey Sam,

    nice post. I definitely agree that the studies are not as important as finding a way that suits you. Like you say personal preference is important, because if we aren’t enjoying what we do, where is the incentive to stick with it?

    I share your philosophy that getting in shape should be fun, and am looking forward to hearing more about your approach. Keep doing what you’re doing.


  3. Excellent thoughts…there doesn’t appear to be a definitive answer on whether doing cardio before or after lifting weights is scientifically better at burning fat. Each person has to decide for themselves what is most effective. Alternatively, you could break your weight training and cardio workouts into separately days so each can be high intensity.

  4. Sam Munoz says:

    That is definitely another good approach to cardio, splitting it to different days. It definitely works if you are doing high intensity training on those days you don’t have enough energy.

    @ UB,
    Thanks for the support. Yes, fitness should be fun. Sure there will be days of soreness and sweat but if you don’t enjoy the process it will be tougher to get to your goals.

    I agree on diving the workouts according to weights and cardio. Often times that works best for people.

  5. Hi Sam

    For me I can only do cardio alone or after weights. However sometimes if I am stuck for time and want to do both I integrate cardio into the workout with the weights. So for example I would do a upper body super set of chest/shoulders and back/abs with heavy weights then do 5 minutes hard running on the treadmill. Repeat this for 4 circuits changing exercises as needed. This covers all the bases and blasts away fat for fun.



    • Sam Munoz says:

      Hi Howard,
      Sounds like a good circuit. Covering your bases this way helps with saving time.
      Thanks for the tip.