Building a workout routine is a big undertaking, especially when there is so much information available online. Performing both strength and cardio are important if you wish to lose weight and build lean muscle. If you’re planning to tackle both kinds of exercise on a single day, here’s what you need to know about which of the two should get priority at the start of your routine.

CONSIDER YOUR GOALS

There are many variables to consider when you’re building a workout routine. One of the most important questions to answer is: what are your fitness goals?

Most of the time, people are working out for one of three reasons — they want to lose weight, they want to build muscle, or they want to improve how they feel. The right exercise routine will help you accomplish all of these things, but deciding which is more important to you will help you decide on the order of your routine.

If building muscle is your top priority, it is a good idea to consider doing your strength training as soon as you hit the gym. One study showed that individuals who paired endurance with strength training but did their strength training first were able to pull off more reps at higher weights than those who did their cardio workout first. This is supported by another study which included different combinations of endurance and strength training performed in that order. Compared to their control group, the participates who were doing cardio before their weight training saw their performance decrease.

FIND YOUR FORMULA

The best method to ensure you get the most out of your strength and cardio training is to break up your workouts. For example, lift weights in the morning and go for a run in the evening or vice versa. If breaking up your workouts isn’t an option — I suggest to start with strength training to ensure you get the maximal muscle-building benefits and perform cardio after.

In terms of fighting off fat, both resistance exercises and cardiovascular activity are critical. When you gain muscle, it raises your metabolic rate, which helps you burn fat faster. Muscle tone requires muscle growth, a much harder fitness component and one worthy of your focused time and effort. Avoid the common mistake of prioritizing cardio over lifting. Muscle growth boosts fat metabolism. The more muscle you have the more fat you burn. Each pound of lean muscle burns up to 50 calories per day. By adding 8 pounds of lean muscle, you will burn up to 400 more calories per day you weren’t burning. For a better perspective, walk on the treadmill and see how long it takes to burn 400 additional calories. Compare that to the potential of burning these calories while doing nothing!

What does this mean for you and your workout routine? Prioritize strength or cardio based on your goals. If you have a personal preference to get one workout over with first before you move on to the next, that’s OK too. The most important thing is that you are using an exercise routine you can maintain over time that benefits your health for the long term.

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