Which comes first in a workout, cardio or strength training? This is such a common question and one that came up in The Squad last week. Find out my answer to this common question!

Cardio or Strength Training - Which Comes First? | Burpees for BreakfastCardio or Strength Training – Which Comes First?

WELCOME to the Capable & Strong Series! 

This series is all about strength training. We will be chatting about things from reasons why women should lift to suggested supplements to building a strong body and mind! And you can expect strength training workouts! 

Capable & Strong Series! | Burpees for BreakfastGood Morning! Happy Monday!!

Today’s question comes from one of the gals in The Burpees for Breakfast Squad. I planned on writing this post anyway, but the question last week reminded me that I needed to write it!

So, cardio or strength training – which comes first? Can they be friends? The answer – my favorite one as a personal trainer – is


  • on your goals
  • the intensity
  • the duration
  • the type


Let me start by saying that cardio is an important part of a fitness program, HOWEVER, it does not mean you need to spend time on the dreadmill (no typo there, sorry) or elliptical.

Cardiovascular exercise is a form of exercise that elevates the heart rate. When you hear the word cardio what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, images of running/jogging either outside or on the dreadmill come to mind. Maybe a little time on the elliptical watching whatever show is on at the gym? Yes?

This was me for the longest time too. These days, however, I rarely spend time on the dreamill or elliptical. If I do, it’s for no more than 10 – 15 minutes, as long as I’m doing intervals and lip-syncing to the rap blasting in my headphones. And I run outside only when I get that itch to run.

But, if we are talking exercise that elevates the heart rate, then we certainly are not limited to just traditional cardio like running or jogging.

Anyone who lifts weights will tell you that it raises the heart rate…often more than steady-state cardio. Plus, let’s not forget cardio specific exercises.

Squat jumps. Jump rope. Lunge jumps. Cycling. Rowing. Skaters. Mt. Climbers. Kettlebell swings. Kettlebell snatches. Almost any kettlebell move. Need more ideas? Check out other cardio move workouts!

And, HIIT anyone?!

High intensity interval training is my favorite and most utilized form of cardio. Gets my heart rate UP, plus all kinds of other benefits, which includes greater EPOC (more calories burned after the workout is over).

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Let’s do back to my answer of, it depends. Here’s the lowdown:

  • YOUR GOALS: If you have strength goals, specifically, aim for your strength work FIRST. Cardio can follow, or ideally be done on a different day. If you have weight loss goals, I still usually recommend strength before traditional cardio. If you have running goals – like you are training for a race – then obviously you’ll want to prioritize running/jogging over strength training, BUT don’t completely leave out lifting. We know how important it is!
  • INTENSITY / DURATION / TYPE: Keep in mind that doing traditional cardio will take energy. If you spend your beginning minutes at the gym, expending energy on the dreadmill, it’s likely you won’t have the needed energy to have a solid lifting session. If you want to do 30 minutes of fairly steady state activity on the treadmill AND lift, my recommendation is to lift one day, do that cardio another day. If you want to do a quick tabata circuit AND lift, go for the tabata first.

Just be mindful of the type /duration / intensity of cardio you are aiming for and how it fits in with your fitness goals.

How to Structure Workouts

Below are a few different options for how you could structure a workout to include cardio + strength training.

  • Start with a dynamic warm-up, complete a lifting session, end with a cool down. This option is super simple and one of my favorites.
  • Start with a dynamic warm-up, complete a lifting session that includes cardio exercises (similar to this), end with a cool down. This option is the one I choose most often!
  • Start with a dynamic warm-up, complete 5 – 10 minutes of a HIIT workout (that incorporates the moves you plan to do in your workout), complete a lifting session, end with a cool down.
  • Start with a dynamic warm-up, complete a lifting session, complete cardio interval OR traditional cardio (elliptical/dreadmill), end with a cool down.
  • Start with a dynamic warm-up, complete traditional cardio (elliptical/dreadmill), complete shorter lifting session, end with a cool down.
  • Complete a lifting session without cardio. Complete cardio on another day.

IF you chose the option of doing a 5 – 10 minute HIIT workout before your lifting session, I’d recommend easing up on the intensity so that you still rock your strength session. 


A strength training program does promote weight loss. I recommend strength training over strict cardio for smart and sustainable weight loss. Remember, muscle is expensive to carry (our body’s fat burning machinery). The more muscle we have the more fat we can burn. Get more muscles.

Further reading on cardio or strength training for fat loss from Nerd Fitness (great article!).

How was your weekend!? Friday, we ended up having dinner with the in-laws and watched a movie. I got home and binge watched New Girl. Last week was insane and busy and crazy at work and I just wanted to relax! I slept in until…8:15am on Saturday, had a snack, then went to the gym for an awesome workout with the Dyna Ball/Slam Ball (If you are part of The Squad, you can get the full workout!) After the gym, we ate and I went with the Hubs on a showing. On the way home, I started feeling sick, so I watched a movie, ate a little dinner, attempted a little work, but ended up just watching New Girl to end the night! Sunday was set up and check in at church. I knocked out food prep in about an hour (breakfast + lunch for both the Hubs and myself). The afternoon consisted of a little house work, business work and hanging with Oscar.

I’m thinking this week will be much less crazy that last week. I’ve got plans to work on re-launching Mindset2Muscles, getting content ready for the remainder of this series and more!

The Burpees for Breakfast Squad is a community – a squad – of health-minded women that love chatting nutrition, fitness, self-care, mindset and more! Ask questions, provide value, give & receive support and encouragement. 

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Do you typically do cardio or strength training first in your workout?
What did you do this weekend?!