Is it better to do cardio or strength training first?

Patient Expert

I hear it all the time--what should I do first, cardio or weights? You can Google this and get 25 differing opinions and research studies.

Overwhelming, yes? In my opinion, women should hit the weights first, for two reasons:

1. Strength does a body good.

Lifting weights will not only build strong muscles but will also increase your metabolic rate. What does this mean? Your body will burn MORE calories all day long It will also help to build stronger bones and help fight off osteoporosis.

One thing I notice in the gym is the cardio area is filled with women who clock 60+ minutes on various cardio machines. For many women, cardio machines are less intimidating and therefore more likely to happen. Basically if you start off with cardio, you might find it is "comfortable" and just finish your workout time on a machine instead of venturing over to do strength work. While this is better than doing no cardio at all, it is not the best use of your time.

Starting around age 30, women start to lose about a third of a pound of muscle mass every year. This loss of muscle slows down your resting metabolic rate, which causes you to put on extra pounds. It is a slow gain and one that you might not notice for awhile, so it is very important to build and maintain muscle to keep your metabolism from slowing down. If you are unsure about what exercises to do and how to do them correctly, hire a trainer for a few sessions to help get you started.

2. Burn the fat.

Cardio after lifting weights will force your body to burn fat as fuel since you already depleted the energy in your muscles from lifting. Take the intensity up a notch to really torch the fat and get results. If you are able to carry on a leisure conversation here, you are NOT working hard enough.

I personally prefer a hybrid approach of interval training. I have found that short yet intense workouts have given me the best results overall. My body is challenged with heavy weights while keeping my heart rate elevated to maximize calorie burn. If you are looking for a great training program, I highly recommend Metabolic Effect. They use a method called "Rest-based Training" (RBT)", which has you work until you rest, and then rest until you can work hard again. The movements are called 'hybrids' where you combine 2 exercises into one.

Here is a sample workout to try:

Squat/overhead shoulder press

Squat/lateral raise

Squat/frontal raise

Squat/bicep curl

Do 8-10 reps of each and go through the entire sequence 3-4 times. Rest when you need it and then work hard until you need to rest again.

Try it out and let me know what you think!