Should You Do Cardio Before or After Weight Lifting?

cardio after weight training

by The Fitness Enthusiast on July 11, 2011

Do you do cardio before or after weights?

*This post has been updated to give more insight into whether or not to do cardio before or after weight lifting.

People ask me ‘should I do cardio after lifting weights ?’  For some reason people think they can’t do cardio on weight training days. This is absurd. If you decide to do cardio on weight training days, or before or after weight lifting is that going to ruin everything? Absolutely not.

Cardio on weight training days is okay

Yes. Cardio is okay on weight training days, but it must be accounted for, otherwise cardio is best done on off days.

should i do cardio before or after lifting weights 2013

should I do cardio before or after lifting weights 2013

Cardio for those trying to Gain Muscle:

You must account for the extra energy expenditure, because adding cardio on your weight training days changes your required calorie intake to gain muscle. If you aren’t a big eater than the question is if you can keep up with your own ambition. Doing cardio on weight training days is okay if you are bulking and you are able account for the extra energy expenditure, but if you don’t count your calories, and accurately…this might be a pitfall.

Now when I say cardio I mean developing the cardiac system. How?

Low intensity work which will also increase your work capacity.

Some Benefits of developing the cardiac system:

1. Improved circulatory system

2. Quicker recovery

3. Better Sleep

4. Increased work capacity

Sounds good, right? So why would anyone want to avoid this? Cardio on weight training days, or on off days if done right is a great thing.

So how do I correctly implement cardio on weight training days or after weight lifting?

Well, the strength and size of the left ventricle can only be developed using certain heart rates, those heart rates being 100-120, and 120-140. 100-120 will develop the size of the chamber, and 120-140 the strength. See, your cardiac output will improve by making your left ventricle bigger, a bigger left ventricle means more blood is pumped which means more oxygen will be delivered to your working muscles. This increased blood flow will deliver more oxygenated blood to the working muscle.

should i do cardio before or after lifting weights 2012

should I do cardio before or after lifting weights

How long?

20-180 minutes, although I would suggest keeping it under 90 minutes during a bulk phase, and working your way up from 20 minutes. That is 20-180 minutes at a heart rate of 100-120, and 120-140. Start by doing 120-140 twice a week, and 100-120 once a week.

So when would you do cardiac work on weight lifting days, or during a bulk phase?

3 Days a week to start out for the first month or two on your off days if you are paranoid about losing muscle, and gradually increase frequency, and duration till where you are doing cardiac work 5-7 days a week for at least 20 minutes a session.

Also, I would do cardio after weight lifting, it will help with minimal fat gain while you’re eating excess calories.

So Cardio on weight training days is okay for those trying to bulk, but keep it low intensity, account for the extra energy expenditure, use it for recovery, keep the volume low, and do the bulk (80-ish%) of cardio after weight training, and only do cardio pre-workout as a shorter part of a meaningful warm-up.

Cardio for those Trying to Lean Out:

See the benefits of developing the cardiac system above.

I will do cardio anywhere from 20-90 minutes at low intensity  3-5x a week to up to 180 minutes, and 5-7x a week split into two training sessions.

I typically do 20 minutes at a heart rate of 120-130 pre-workout and 45 minutes of cardio after weight training.

I find this doesn’t really mess with my strength levels, or contribute to any noticeable muscle loss, again it just helps with recovery (among many other things), and the higher amount of volume gets rid of a few extra calories and that won’t hurt.

Cardio should be done after weight training

‘Should I do cardio after lifting weights?’ Yes! Low intensity cardio after weight training is better for burning fat from my experience. I do anywhere from 20-180 minutes of low intensity cardio with my heart rate anywhere from 100-140 after weight training during my fat loss phase. If I do more than 90 minutes then I split my cardio into two sessions, one after weight lifting, and another session 4-6 hours later.

should i do cardio before or after lifting weights

should I do cardio before or after lifting weights

When I am bulking…well, I typically keep my cardio under 45 minutes after weight training, and 10-15 minutes pre-workout as a warm-up, or just do it on my off days.

AND, cardio work can definitely be done as a part of a warm-up. Typically I may warm-up anywhere from 25-45 minutes depending on the workout. What does this warm-up consist of? Cardio (10-15 min), Dynamic (15 minutes), etc….(My warm-ups are very specific to the movements I am about to perform so they vary greatly and such is beyond the scope of this article).

Cardio if Done before weight lifting should be done as a part of a warm-up

Should I do cardio before weights? Why? Why not?’ Why burn yourself out before you begin the most powerful potent physique altering tool in existence? What tool? Weight lifting.

If you do cardio before weights that takes away from your weight lifting, you are defeated. Leave the bulk of your cardio after weight training

If you use cardio before weights as a part of a sensible warm-up, you are #winning.

20 minutes of cardio before you start weight lifting isn’t a big deal, but doing 60, 90 minutes? That may hinder your lifting progress.

If you are trying to lean out, I would still save the bulk of cardio after weight training. Weight lifting is much more powerful in terms of altering your physique while getting lean…You do not want cardio to take away from this, doing it after weight lifting will increase fat loss and won’t take away from your training.


Cardio and Weight Lifting Key Points:

Cardio On Weight Training Days is okay, but If you are bulking and paranoid about losing muscle, save the cardiac work for your off days.

The bulk of cardio should be done after weight training regardless of whether you are trying to gain muscle or lean out. Weight lifting is much more potent then cardio when dieting and trying to maintain muscle, and alter your physique.

Cardio has a ton of benefits. It won’t make you weak and if done right will help you tremendously! You will find you recover from previous weight lifting sessions faster. All the cardio in the world won’t combat bad sleep, and stiff legs. Furthermore, weight loss really comes from dietary manipulation, not from exercise. Exercise is a supplement to your diet, 100% of losing weight is being in a calorie deficit. Weight lifting will help, eating less will dominate.

Cardio after weight training is better for burning fat.

Short duration cardio before weights is good as a part of a meaningful warm-up whether bulking or cutting.

You must account for the extra energy expenditure whether bulking or cutting that the inclusion of cardio before or after weights will provide.

You can do more cardio after weight training when leaning out, this means more volume both in frequency and duration.

So do you do cardio before or after weights? There are a lot of factors to consider. Cardio on weight training days is okay, but you should know this: unless you are doing short duration cardio as a part of a warm-up, then you should do cardio AFTER weight training for best results.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Julio demichellis July 11, 2011 at 4:45 pm

What is the normal heart rAte when u work out weight ifting


The Fitness Enthusiast July 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm

There is no standard. It depends on rest period, duration, frequency at which you train, intensity, and most of all…you.

Are in you shape? or not? What energy systems are you training? I’ll expand on this today. The heart is an awesome indicator of training intensity.

Here is a link to the article I just wrote: How to lower average resting heart rate.


James March 8, 2012 at 10:48 am

Thank you for this article! I learned so much, and feel like my question has been answered. I’ve been looking into this on and off for about a year, and until now, haven’t found a clear answer. This was a clear and well informing article. Thanks for the great read!


The Fitness Enthusiast March 18, 2012 at 3:11 am


Thanks for the comment.

The Fitness Enthusiast


Martin June 9, 2012 at 9:52 am

Is it okay if I warmup on the elliptical for 18 minutes with a resistance up to 10 before weightlifting? and 13 minutes after weightlifting?


The Fitness Enthusiast June 23, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Hi Martin,

I always warm-up prior to lifting and lately I have been warming up on the elliptical prior to lifting. I try to warm-up a total of 30 minutes, however my warm-ups are always 3 phases.

Phase 1: general movement, jogging, elliptical keeping my heart rate around 130 for a good 10-15 minutes
Phase 2: Dynamic Upper body stretching – 5-10 minutes
Phase 3: Dynamic Lower Body Stretching – 5-10 minutes

I include some static, I mix it up, I keep it moving the entire time and I make sure my heart rate doesn’t go to high, lets say generally speaking above 140. I also make sure to warm-up to what most closest resembles the activity I am about to take on so if I am squatting you will found a lot of squat related movements in my warm-up session…..

I don’t know you personally so I can’t really tell you what will work for you but this is what works for me, just make sure your not exhausting yourself doing your warm-up, a light sweat that prepares you for the more strenuous workout is so important!




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