Back-to-back workouts: Cardio or strength first?

Although it is recommended that you don’t do different types of workouts back-to-back; it is sometimes necessary to do so in order to reach your goals.

When this is the case which type of workout should you do first? Cardio or strength.

The answer to this is, as is often the case, not simple. It is entirely dependent on your goal.

A man working out at the gym

If you want to lose weight

If you are looking to lose weight, it is usually recommended that you do strength training before your cardio in order to empty your carbohydrate stores. The main idea behind this is to force your body to get its energy from fat stores rather than from carbs during your run. There is, however, an issue with this strategy. It is not possible to finish a long-distance run at high intensity with empty carbohydrate stores.

At the end of the day, a negative energy balance is the key to losing weight. Burning more calories than you consume is the only sure-fire way of maintaining a weight loss regime. Spreading your workouts out over several days will allow you to train at high intensity; and therefore, burn a lot of calories. While allowing time for muscle recovery.

If you want to build muscle and increase your maximum strength

If your goal is to build muscle, then you should definitely do your strength workouts prior to any endurance work. Strength training work should only be carried out when your muscles are fresh. Never do strength training if your muscles are already fatigued. It isn’t possible to train to the required intensity to provide an ideal stimulus with fatigued muscles.

It is probably not a good idea to add an endurance run to your strength training. This can interfere with the muscle-building process. In order to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, the body needs plenty of recovery time.

If you want to improve your running endurance

You should go for a run before you do strength training if your goal is to improve your running endurance. In order to produce an effective training stimulus, muscles should be rested prior to long or intensive running sessions. Tired muscles prior to running can negatively impact your running form and lessen the potential gains from your training regime. This can also lead to strain and injury in your joints and muscles.

If it is absolutely necessary to go for a run after doing some strength training, ensure you keep the intensity low.


Following these few tips should allow you to make the most out of back-to-back workouts if they are absolutely necessary. As previously stated, it is best to try and separate your workouts so that you can get the very best out of them.

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Written by Jonathan Buckeridge

I have been succeeding at this thing we call life for about 45 minutes now. There will be some errors throughout the journey, but I'm sure it will be fun all the same. I fell over once....that was annoying.

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