Just about every fitness expert you talk to will recommend doing a combination of cardio and weight training, rather than choosing one or the other.

It’s good advice because those are two very different forms of exercise with very different benefits.

The interesting question is, which should you do first in your weekly exercise routine?  Here, things get interesting and the answers will vary depending on who you ask.  In this article, we’ll shed some light on that, and in the process, uncover why there’s an ongoing debate on the topic!

Ultimately, the question of which you should do first for optimal results comes down to your personal goals.  Personal fitness goals tend to fall into one of three broad categories:  Losing weight, building muscle mass, or training for a specific physical event.  Note that muscle is sixteen times denser than fat, so if you’re focused on weight training, you’re actually quite likely to gain weight.  The muscle weight you add on will more than offset the fat you’re losing.

Here, then, is the answer:

If your goal is to lose weight, then you want to start with weight training and move to cardio afterward.  According to a study conducted by the American Council on Exercise, you’ll burn more pounds and shed fat more quickly if your heart rate is elevated when you begin your cardio routine.  An opening round of weight training accomplishes that goal and makes your cardio workout more efficient and effective.

On the other hand, if your primary goal is to build muscle and develop a nice six-pack to show off, then your best bet is to split your cardio and weight training workouts to separate days.  The reason is simple:  When you strength train, you need to be operating at 100 percent capacity when you exercise.  Bunching the two types of exercise on the same day will blunt your effectiveness on whichever one comes second.

If you are training for an event like a race or a marathon, you’ll want to do your cardio routine first, according to the latest research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning.  Their recommendation is to use the cardio routine as a warm-up, and then exercise the muscles most needed for the event you’re training for before proceeding with the rest of your strength training routine.

As you can see then, there’s no one right answer here.  It is entirely dependent on what you want your exercise routine to do for you!