Should I do Cardio or Weights?

Often, this depends on what your goals are. I find that most people start to exercise without a clear understanding of what their goals are. Even when people do understand their goals they often do not know the best path to achieve those goals.

Many people believe that starting a new gym membership and getting on a few machines and using the cardio equipment for 20 minutes will get them healthy. Their doctor may recommend walking or doing a yoga class to get back into shape. These are great starts in improving your health.  However, I find often that most people were expecting different results and become discouraged very soon after starting.

Cardiovascular exercise is the idea of increasing your heart rate to approximately 65-75% of your max heart rate and to sustain for a period of time, usually 20-30 minutes. The purpose behind this form of exercise is to improve the heart and lungs to supply oxygen rich blood to the working muscles.  The exercises used for this purpose are walking, hiking, swimming, biking, running, rowing and elliptical. It is believed by many this it the most important form of exercise for a healthy heart. I, personally disagree, most of the time.

Yes, cardiovascular exercise can play an important role in your exercise routine, but I believe being stronger is more important. I worked with a 70-year-old cardiac rehabilitation client and we followed the recommended exercise, which was using a bike, walking or elliptical machine. After eight weeks we noticed an minimal improvement in the average heart rate during exercise and her overall resting heart rate. She also felt better over all but then she told me that she was still getting a shortness of breath going up a flight of stairs. I decided to implement a strength program to see if that could help her overcome the stairs at home. After one month of strength training using leg press, hamstring curls and leg extensions she was able to climb the stair much easier with little difficulty. The most interesting fact was that her average heart rate and resting heart rate decreased dramatically during cardo and weight training combined, significantly more than doing just cardio exercise by itself and in a shorter timeframe.

If your goal were to improve your 5-mile run, I would have you do your cardio workouts before your weight workouts. It wouldn’t be wise to do a lot of weight lifting that would tire your upper and lower body before trying to have a good run. This would impede on your running form and ultimately slow you down. So, you can do your weight routine after your run but it would be preferable to complete it later in the day or the following day. This would allow your body to recover from the run to get the most out of your weight routine.

If your goal is to build muscle mass and to improve strength dramatically, I would have you do your weight workouts before your cardio workouts. To improve muscle mass and strength it is important to lift heavier weights and it is also important your body feels fresh and ready to do so. If you do too much cardio before doing your weights you will not have the energy to lift the heavier weight, which is required for the gains.

I have worked with thousands of clients and in most cases I would prefer them to do their strength training first. If you like to do 5-10 minutes of light cardio to get your body warmed up before you start weight training that is completely okay. I rarely have clients come in that want to become a better distance runner. I do see many people that want to be able get up off the floor, up the stairs, hit the golf ball further, move large planters, pick up there kids and put luggage in the overhead bins by themselves. Cardio can slightly help with those types of goals but if your body were significantly stronger it would improve those goals dramatically. This type of strength is best achieved by lifting weights.  Not only would those daily activities be less stress on your muscles and joints but also your heart. For more information on health and fitness please visit me at

One Response to Should I do Cardio or Weights?

  1. Flappy Bird says:

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