THE QUESTION: “Should I do strength or cardio first in my workouts?”
THE EXPERT: Jennifer Burke, a certified physical trainer at Crunch gym in Los Angeles
THE ANSWER: Strength training. “Either order is technically fine, but if you do strength training first, your workout will be much more effective overall,” Burke explains.
Looking to burn calories fast? It all comes down to the science of how your body uses energy. When you exercise, your body first uses anaerobic energy, which is a pretty quick burst of energy that doesn’t require additional oxygen beyond what you’re already taking in. Then, once you’re moving, your body moves on to aerobic energy, which does require more oxygen than what you normally inhale, Burke explains.
The key, then, is using that first quick burst of energy, the anaerobic kind, most effectively—and that’s where doing strength training first comes in.
“Adopting a strength training program in general requires quicker bursts of energy than cardio does. It’s more of an explosive, fine tuned movement, whereas cardio is generally longer and more steady, and doesn’t require the quick bursts,” says Burke. So if you do strength training first, you’ll be making better use of that original quick burst of energy.
But what happens if you do cardio first? You’ll still be fine. It’s just that since your body will have already used up your quick energy stores during your cardio time, you won’t be able to recruit it for strength training, so you may feel more sluggish and exhausted—and therefore not as able to push yourself to the max. That means that your weight lifting and your squats may be sloppier than if you did them first.
That said, doing both strength and cardio is the more important goal. So if you find that you just aren’t motivated to do strength first for whatever reason, then don’t feel that you have to follow this advice—the most important thing is to do whatever you need to do so you actually, well, do it.
But generally speaking, if you don’t have a preference, go for strength first—it’ll definitely help you maximise your results.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.