When asked which should come first, the cardio or the weight-lifting there are as many different theories as there are trainers but there is no wrong way as long as it fits your exercise goals. If you are in it to build muscle and bulk up, it makes sense to go for the weights first so that you don’t burn the glycogen out of your muscles. But don’t omit cardio from your training. It is bad enough that some ill-informed weight lifters only build their vanity muscles but it only adds insult to injury when they huff and puff on a flight of stairs. Need I remind everyone that a solid exercise program includes cardio, weight-lifting, and flexibility?
I am talking about the average person who just wants to stay in shape and be healthy. That is certainly the most common reason for hitting the gym and the protocol is a little more variable. It makes sense for this type of person to use the cardio portion of their workout as a natural warm-up, followed by a series of weight-loading and weight-bearing exercises to strengthen the muscles. Contrary to the average way of thinking, energy levels are often increased after a good cardio workout rather than depleted due to the endorphins that are released when the heart rate is elevated. Attention and focus can be given to the proper execution of the exercises throughout the full range of motion and the possibility of injuries are greatly reduced. These are individuals who are training for general fitness, not a specific sport.
Then there are those of us who prefer to combine the cardio with the weight-lifting, circuit style for its effectiveness and efficiency. It takes some creativity and ability to move from one exercise to another with some flow but it makes good use of your time in the gym. It doesn’t require waiting between sets. In fact the muscles have more recovery time before they are called on in the next circuit and more repetitions can be performed during each exercise. And if done properly, the heart rate will stay elevated throughout the circuit.
If all else fails, do what you like the least first. That way, if you cut your workout short you will have more incentive to complete it later in the day knowing that the best is yet to come. Whether you do your cardio first, last, or during your workout is less of an issue than you think so mix it up and see what works for you. And remember when it is all behind you, you haven’t finished until you have stretched!