You’ve finally made it to the gym. Should you start your workout by jumping on one of the available treadmills for your cardio session or head to the weight room to start pumping iron?

Some people claim that starting off with cardio is better because it warms up the muscles and gets your blood pumping. Others claim that you should do your weightlifting first when you have enough energy to complete an intense session. Who among them is right? Also, does your workout order really make a difference?

The short answer is: Yes, it does

According to research and fitness pros, it’s advisable to start with weights before progressing to cardio exercises. However, this depends on your fitness goals, i.e., do you want to build more muscle, increase strength, lose weight or boost your endurance? All these will determine which workout to prioritize.

Start with weights to lose weight and get a leaner, stronger physique

If you’re looking to slim down and shape up, your best bet is to do strength training first. The logic behind this is simple. When you first start lifting weights, your body will burn through its glycogen stores, giving you ample energy to lift weights at maximum effort. That way, when you move on to the elliptical, bike or treadmill, your body will be forced to burn fat stores to power you through that cardio session resulting in fat loss and a greater calorie burn.

Furthermore, resistance training builds muscle. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate i.e. the more calories you burn at rest. One study showed that participants who put in 10 weeks of strength training increased their resting metabolic rate by as much as 7% while reducing body fat. So if your aim is to lose weight, it makes sense to begin your workouts by lifting weights.

If you want to build more muscle mass to get a leaner, toned body, then weightlifting before cardio is the way to go. This allows you to have more energy from the onset, so you can lift heavier weights and have an intense, productive session. Deciding to do your cardio first means that you’ll hardly have any energy left over for strength training afterward due to fatigue. As a result, you’ll likely end up doing weak lifts and fewer reps, which will do nothing for your physique or fitness goals.

If you really have to do your cardio first, try having your cardio session a few hours before strength training, e.g. do cardio in the morning and lift weights in the evening. Even better, allocate different days for the two workouts. This gives your body ample time to recover and also allows you to perform both workouts at 100% effort.

Begin your workout with cardio to build up speed and endurance

The one time you can make a beeline for your preferred cardio machine before doing some weightlifting is if you’re training for a running or cycling race. Cardio exercises are perfect for training the short fibers of the muscles, leading to enhanced endurance. As opposed to strength training, which causes muscles to become larger and stronger, cardio triggers a response that makes muscle fibers smaller and more resistant to fatigue. Cardio exercises are also excellent for helping you increase your speed.

While cardio does have numerous gains, runners and cyclists can still benefit from incorporating some resistance training into their workouts. Research shows that athletes who do so benefit from improved muscle power and economy as well as improved performance. The trick is to take sufficient recovery time between workout sessions so that the physiological stress from weight training doesn’t result in extreme fatigue which would interfere with the running or cycling sessions.

When the order of your workout doesn't matter

You have a lot of leeway if your goal isn’t improving your peak performance, losing weight or quickly gaining strength and muscle mass. If you want to just improve your overall fitness, then the order of the workouts really doesn’t matter, and you can do either cardio or weight training first. After all, the best exercise is the one that you actually do, and the health benefits of even moderate daily exercise are too good to pass up. So if you prefer an intense spin class before pumping some iron, go right ahead.

The bottom line is that we are all different individuals with different workout goals. While both weight training and cardio are excellent workouts, the order in which you perform them will be determined by what you want to get out of your gym time. You can experiment with the order and see what works best for your body type, available time and fitness goals.

If you’re new to working out and are unsure about what to do, schedule the two workouts on separate days. That way, you won’t have to worry about one interfering with the other, and you’ll still get all the awesome benefits of both cardio and weight training.

Author's Bio: 

Kevin Jones has mastered a busy lifestyle with work and fitness combined with family life. He writes offering solutions for personal fitness and time management as well as keeping families fit together by utilizing activities and diet