Which should you do first, cardio or strength?

It’s one of the top fitness questions, one that I am asked almost daily. Innumerable articles have been written on this “Great Debate.” Instead of discussing the pros and cons of doing one before the other, however, what if you simply mixed the two together?

To be honest, I find the debate to be a complete waste of time for the vast majority of people, for those whose main goals are to lose some weight, build some muscle and increase their overall health and well-being. What matters most is not in what order you do your cardio and strength; but that you DO both of them. Consistently.

So if the number one reason people cite for not exercising is lack of time, wouldn’t it stand to reason that you would try to maximize your workout time and efforts? What better way to do so than to combine your cardio and strength routine, rather than do them separately?

This is especially true for those of you who are working out a few times per week, doing cardio one day and strength training the next. If you do them separately and exercise four times per week, that means you are engaging in both twice.

Frequency of exercise is a big determinant of your overall results. The more cardio you do, the more calories you burn and the more weight you will lose. When you lift weights three times per week instead of two, that extra day makes a big difference over time.

Thus, I am a huge proponent of combining cardio and strength workouts. I do it myself. When the goal is to get the greatest results in the shortest amount of time with the least likelihood of injury, this approach makes complete sense.

The obvious next question is, “So exactly how should I combine the two?”

There are literally an infinite number of ways to do so. That’s great news, because you can create your own personal program utilizing the modes of cardio and strength moves that you enjoy. It also allows for constant variation of your workouts, which will keep you from plateauing and also from getting bored with your routine.

Here are two simple frameworks I use to combine my cardio and strength workouts into one:


This method is a simple back-and-forth of cardio and strength. For a 30-minute session I would alternate between doing 5 minutes of cardio and 5 minutes of strength. For example:

  • 5 minutes Max Trainer
  • 5 minutes upper body with SelectTechs
  • 5 minutes Max Trainer
  • 5 minutes lower body bodyweight
  • 5 minutes Max Trainer
  • 5 minutes core exercises


Another way I like to combine the two is by utilizing a circuit format. One of my favorites is a simple yet super-effective four-part circuit, performing 60 seconds of the following exercises:

  • Upper body
  • Lower-body
  • Core
  • Cardio

A sample 20-minute workout might look like this:

  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Plank
  • Bowflex MAX

You could repeat this circuit five times through for a total of five sets of each exercise, or change to a new move every round.

The bottom line is that combining your cardio and strength into one continuous workout is not only “okay,” it’s a really smart way to get the results you are looking for in less time.

And it’s fun!