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FITori Answers | Which comes first….the cardio or the weights?!

I get asked this question often by readers….should I do cardio or weights first?  Well, the answer is complicated….IT DEPENDS!!! I know you hate that, but that’s why weight loss and maintenance is so tricky. There isn’t one answer for a question like this!

What are your goals?  Are you losing weight? If your goal is to lose weight and not necessarily to gain muscle, then it really doesn’t matter, but I’ll still help you decide…keep reading. You can do them in any order or split them up.  As long as you’re in the gym, burning calories, keeping your hear rate up, doing cardio and lifting weights during the week (not too light, ladies…lift ‘em!!) then you’ll be achieving the desired results!  So, do what feels best and in the order that works best for you that day!  Also, keep in mind that if you always do your cardio first, you may not have as much energy for your weights, so you might want to think about doing lighter cardio workouts on the days you lift shoulders, for example, if you’re working on building strength in your shoulders!

What’s your favorite? If you’re like me, you love to lift weights and hate doing cardio. OR you may be the exact opposite. Are you likely to finish your ___ workout and then skip the ____ workout? I AM!!! If I save my cardio for the end, I am very likely to skip cardio altogether and just leave, rationalizing that I’ll come back later (not so much) or that I kept my heart rate up high enough!  For me….if I’m doing cardio and weights all at the same time, I have to start with cardio AND I really need to do this at every workout.  I tend to skip cardio if I only have cardio to do. SO, I do MUCH better if I do both…cardio & weights….at every workout….in that order!

What are your goals? Are you gaining muscle? If you’re working on gaining muscle, you’ll want to limit cardio or cut it out altogether for a period of time, until you feel like you’ve gained enough muscle and can start working on cutting the fat you gained in the process….this process is a fun and interesting balance for women!  So, you won’t want to do cardio before or after your weights workout because you’ll need to do your weights and get your protein/carb post workout meal and not burn off that muscle you’re working so hard to build!

Can you make it to the gym for two-a-days? Oh two-a-days….my least favorite thing EVER!  Unless you have an empty schedule and just love being at the gym, it’s hard for me to get to the gym TWICE a day! I even bought a bike…LOVE my bike!  That way I could do my [FUN!!!] cardio at home and then only GO to the gym once a day for my weights.  That is still hard for me!  I have to shower twice. I have to have my hair up all day (I can’t wash my hair twice a day….I have curly hair so I wash it every OTHER day!) due to the helmet so I can’t look good except for the short time after I shower and style my hair every other day….requires tons of planning ahead to go anywhere!:)I have to wash TWICE as many workout clothes, etc. It’s tough for me!  BUT IT’S IDEAL!!! After every workout you burn more calories.  There is a limit to how much “afterburn” you’ll get from each workout, but if you workout twice a day, you’ll get twice as much “afterburn” and raise your metabolism even more to keep up with all of your activity. Make sure to fuel your extra workouts! And, don’t burn yourself out! I have done this where I workout SO hard for a few weeks or months doing these two-a-days and I neglect everything else in my life and then…..I just want to quit working out for a while. This is a BAD strategy!  It’s just like a starvation diet and then binging or the same thing with finances….I discussed both here.  If you can do this with balance…it really is the best for losing weight!

Can you vary your diet on certain days of the week? You can always do a split of cardio M/W/F and weights on T/Th/Sat for example.  As I explained on my PWO nutrition post though…..your body is better able to process carbs after a weights workout SO for me, I prefer lifting more often than not AND like I said earlier, I have a hard time doing cardio at the gym (I do love my quiet, bike rides) and we all know that some of the best cardio can be walking at an incline on the treadmill or doing stadiums……whoa! The burn! It’s best if you can lower your carbs on the days that you only do cardio….but that’s tough! And not as much fun!:)If you’re someone who loves carbs every day of the week, it may be best to lift every day and add cardio into the same workout (or a two-a-day) and make sure your biggest carb meal is after your weights workout!:)

Did I answer your questions? Did I create anymore questions?

What’s your favorite order of cardio & weights? Do you split your days? WHY?

Did this post change your mind?  Whatcha thinkin’? Share in the comments below!!

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TheHealthyApron - I definitely like to split my cardio/weight days. I prefer cardio vs weights but I’ve grown to appreciate the rewards that is weight lifting!! I have noticed so much more definition now that I have a regular work out with weights!

Nichole - Tori-
Thank you for all the nice comments on our blog. You are an inspiration. I hope to someday be able to put some killer “after” photos on my blog too. Thanks!

tori - Make that your goal! You can do it! It’s not easy all the time but you can do it! :) Thank you for YOUR kind words! I meant all of mine…I signed up to follow you too. I can’t wait to learn from you since you’re a weeee bit ahead of me w/ a daughter! :)

tori - YAY! I love hearing that!!! You just can’t get the results you want without lifting weights…in my opinion!

teresa - I didn’t know that lifting weights had that connection with carbs. That’s really interesting and helpful for me to know.
i really want to add the weight training, but need to figure out a routine so I’m not just wandering around wasting time.
I love cardio. I love to get a good sweaty workout and keep going. I feel so happy afterward.
It’s hard for me to imagine giving it up even for some days, but I need to start adding the weight/strength training before I think. I think I’ll try and do a bit of both every day for now. I’m in serious weight loss mode, by the way. Just need to burn calories and make my weekly calorie deficit.

Emily - I much prefer cardio to weights so I always do my cardio first and then have to make myself lift but I almost always do them both on the same days. You can encourage me in my lifting and I will encourage you in your cardio! :-)

tori - Perfect!!! Bring it!!! I need it!!! :)

tori - Pick out a routine from a magazine like Oxygen or Muscle & Fitness HERS. OR you can do a full program like Body For LIfe (link on my sidebar to the right) or a book like that. I love a good sweaty workout too! Believe it or not if you’re lifting heavy enough and taking small enough rests in between you’ll get sweaty from lifting too! :) I PROMISE….PROMISE….PROMISE……if you add weights in you’ll see better results!!! You will watch your figure transform, not just lose pounds on the scale. The amount of time in the gym will mean MORE calorie burn b/c AFTER a weights workout you’ll burn MORE calories than with a cardio workout. So, that hour in the gym lifting will = more calorie burn than an hour doing cardio. Of course, do both! :)

Christin@purplebirdblog - When I was lifting a lot I always had to do the cardio first because it was my least favorite!

Toronto Girl West - What brilliant advice!

I usually like a light cardio warm up, weights, and then some intervals (usually running) to finish off!

BTW – STUNNING pictures!!!!! :)

Sheri - For me I LOVE cardio, but weights are okay. If I didn’t have to do them I wouldn’t, but I love the strength I have now in my abs, back and arms!

I usually do both though, cardio then weights. I don’t know why in that order, just have done it that way.

Thanks for all your helpful advise!

Michele @ Healthy Cultivations - I love this post. I struggle with doing both — either I’m consistent with one or the other. When I’m doing both, I prefer to lift first. If I do cardio first, I don’t have much left in my legs for lifting. Though I get frustrated because I can push a lot harder in cardio on the non-lifting days. It’s a balance. The thing I love about weights is how strong it makes me feel — like I can do anything!!

So do you think lifting as much as possible is okay? I don’t mean lifting so much you rip a muscle or something… I just mean as much as I can tolerate with decent form over 3 sets of 12 reps (typically what I do).

Michele @ Healthy Cultivations - P.S. I love all the recent Toby pics. Keep ‘em coming. He’s a star.

JMARIE - I frequent your blog from time to time, and found a copy of your post about cooking sprays posted around the end of last year – copied and pasted onto another blog as their own work. This person has since deleted the blog, but if you have google reader – you can add alli-fitness.blogspot.com and if you scroll to october you will find it.

Just a heads up..

tori - WOW! Thanks for telling me!!! You’re the best!! I tried but it won’t let me add the RSS since the blog is gone :( Do you have a copy on your google reader that you can email me? I’m curious! If not, not biggie!! Thanks again!! tori [at] fitoriblog.com

Thanks again JMarie!!!!

Sarah - I just found your blog, I absolutely love it! Great information and a good read! I will continue to follow :)

tori - Thanks SOOO much Sarah! So glad you’re here! I’d love to hear more from you about what you think….I also have a FB page that I get a lot of great input from readers and smart women that rock! (much like yourself, I’m sure!!!) Do you mind if I ask where you found my blog?! So glad to “meet” you!

Courtney F - I have always been a cardio then weights type of person. That way I get the cardio over with.
Great post!!! Especially for people who have no idea which and when do do what!

tori - Thanks Courtney! I’m the same way! I hope it helped….I get a lot of questions about this!!!

tori - You made my night reading this! Thank you!! :)

tori - i am the same way! My fave gym days are doing exercises where I feel strong! And, I tend to avoid the ones that make me feel weak…which are where I need to work the most! :(
I think it’s totally fine to lift 5-6 days a week w/ the right split! And, listen to your body and take breaks when needed. So you can do M-chest, T-hams and calves, W-arms, Th-quads and abs, F-back or something like that so you’re not lifting the exact same muscle group over and over. Or you can do a BFL-like split which is M-upper, T-lower, W-cardio, Th-upper, Fr-lower, Sat-cardio or whatever. Let me know if that helps you at all or if I didn’t answer your question!! :)
And, regarding reps and sets, you should do what “feels” right but work to failure. So, if you can do 30-50 reps of an exercise, your weight is waay too low…lift more weight for fewer reps….challenge yourself. 3 reps of 12 is totally fine. It’s always nice to switch it up though and maybe one week lift a heavier weight for 6-8 reps for all of those exercises or for one set of them or do your last set to “failure” and then another week (maybe a week you’re feeling more tired) you can lower the weight a bit and do 15-20 reps with each.

tori - :) i relate! :)

tori - I did that for a while too! Great idea!! And, THANK YOU!!!!!

la. - Well you are supposed to do at least ten minutes of cardio to warm you up for lifting. Where on earth would I find the time to do cardio TWICE! Not with Gooner, time is of the essence.

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