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Concurrent Training: Weights or Cardio First for Fat Loss?

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We all want the best physiques possible and were willing to train as hard as we need to in order to achieve it. But what if it’s not just about how hard you work, but also how clever?

Could changing the order of your training around make you lose more fat?

Although both cardio and weights improve a number of different health and fitness variables, there is still debate regarding the best way to order them. The concept of doing both cardio and weights in the same session is referred to as “concurrent training”

In this article, we’ll break down the research and tell you if it is better to do weight training before your cardio, or after. From the points we’ll cover you’re going to learn:

  • Key terminology related to how we burn fat
  • Key Research based on exercise order and selection
  • Final word – a summary on fat loss programming

Cardio and weights are both important for fat loss

It is important to frame the context of this article first – the question is not whether cardio or weights are good for fat loss or not. It is whether you should complete cardio first – (CV-W) or weights first (W-CV).

Both are good for fat loss.

Cardio is important as it not only uses energy but stimulates lots of adaptations in your body that speeds up fat loss.

It will increase your number and density of specialized blood vessels called capillaries – these are microscopic blood vessels that transport oxygen and nutrients to your muscles so that they can contract without fatigue.

Cardio will also increase the density of your mitochondria – these are specialized organelles (part of a cell) that is responsible for collecting the oxygen and nutrients from the capillaries and using it as energy.

Weight training however will increase the amount of lean muscle that you have as well as your basal metabolic rate (BMR) – the amount of energy you burn when at rest.

Given that BMR represents the largest percentage of an individual’s daily energy expenditure (up to 75% of total energy expenditure), many researchers have been interested in identifying interventions that may potentiate an increase it [1].


Key Points:

  • Both capillarisation and mitochondrial density are extremely important in fat loss
  • Weight training will increase your BMR

The science – Weights or Cardio First?

For some time now there has been an on-going debate about whether you pump iron, or perform cardio first in order to best stimulate fat loss. Here’s a breakdown of the best studies:

#Study 1: Patrick et al [2]

A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigated the effects of a combined resistance training and endurance exercise program in inactive college female subjects.

The study looked at which improved body weight, body composition, strength and fitness levels, with volunteers training 4 days per week in either a CV-W or W-CV group.

Each of the exercise sessions lasted 1 hour – the cardio part of the workout consisted of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, at about 70–80% of maximum intensity, and for the weights session, the ladies completed a 3-way split routine with subjects performing 3 sets of 8–12 repetitions for 5–6 different exercises using a load equal to 10 repetition maximum.

Firstly, regardless of order, both groups significantly increased all fitness levels as well as body composition over the 8 week period. However, there was no significant difference at all between the two groups – therefore, the order of these modalities for beginning exercisers should be based on personal preference and to facilitate adherence.

So, if the order of concurrent training isn’t that important for inactive exercisers, what about the amount?

#Study 2: Whatley et al [3]

In this study, 23 obese females were asked to complete exercise after 12 weeks of a low calorie diet. They were split into one of two groups:

  • Group 1: 400 minutes of cardio a week and weight training
  • Group 2: 200 minutes of cardio a week and weight training

The results showed that both groups lost weight – around 6.5kg, however there wasn’t much difference between groups, showing that maybe cardio training isn’t the important factor here.

#Study 3: Sheikholeslami-Vatani [4]

In this study, Sheikholeslami-Vatani and colleagues conducted an 8-week study on 30 obese young male students without continuous exercise history – they were essentially beginners.

They were split into 3 groups:

  • Group 1: Concurrent W-CV (5 minutes rest inbetween)
  • Group 2: Concurrent CV-W (5 minutes rest inbetween)
  • Group 3: Control – no exercise

The training sesions consisted of:

Running with 70—75% of maximal heart rate (HRmax) for 10 minutes which gradually increased to 80% HRmax for 21.5 minutes [plus] resistance training consisted of 3 sets of 8 repetitions at 80% of 1 repetition maximum (1RM) in 5 resistance exercises (leg extensions, lying leg curl, triceps pushdown, bench press and lateral pull down)

Results showed that both groups reduced body fat and weight, normalized leptin levels – a potent hormone that increases appetite and increased fat mass. However the W-CV group saw significantly better results in all measures!

Now obviously these studies used inactive/overweight participants so these results might not possibly be transferable to those who are already training. Let’s have a look at concurrent training in more experienced exercisers…

weights or cardio first

Key Point: For beginners, the research suggests that it doesn’t really matter what order you do your training

What about if you are a more advanced exerciser?

Here’s a breakdown of research using more physically active participants:

#Study 4: Dolezal et al [5]

In this study, Dolezal et al used 30 physically active male volunteers and asked them to participate for a 10 week period in one of the following training groups:

  • 1. Cardio – 3 days per week jogging and/or running
  • 2. Weight training – 3 days per week resistance training
  • 3. Combined – concurrent training including activities in groups 1 and 2

The groups were tested on any changes to BMR or body composition, as well as fitness and strength.

The results of the study were really interesting – BMR increased significantly in the weights  and combined groups but not for the cardio group. On top of this, body fat was lower in the combined group than in the weights group and the only thing the cardio group was best at was improving maximum aerobic power.

There’s a lot going off in this study but basically all you need to know is that although weights alone will increase BMR and muscular strength, cardio alone will increase aerobic power and decrease body fat, concurrent training will provide all of these benefits but to a lesser magnitude than RT and ET

#Study 5: Goto et al [6]

This study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise investigated the effects of weight training before cardio using 10 well-trained males. The volunteers were split into 3 groups:

  • Group 1: Cardio only
  • Group 2: Weights exercise, 20 min of rest, then cardio
  • Group 3: Weights exercise, 120 min of rest, then cardio

The weights exercise consisted of six exercises, each with three to four sets at 10-repetition maximum. For the cardio, the men performed exercise at 50% of the maximal oxygen uptake for 60 min on a bike.

The results of the study showed that fat availability during submaximal exercise was enhanced by prior resistance exercise – in other words, the volunteers burned more fat from doing cardio by including weights before hand – but only in the short rest group (group 2)!

The reason why may well be to do with hormone release – weight training reduces glycogen in the body, add that to the increased epinephrine and norepinephrine released during weight training, and that may be what’s stimulating fat cells to release their contents into the bloodstream.

Key Point: Weights before cardio will help you burn more fat – if you don’t rest too long in between.

In summary – Weights or Cardio First For Fat Loss?

Definitely weights. When it comes to your workout, if you are beginner you’ll benefit from either strategy. Your body is just learning how to adapt to training, so there’s no real need to order modes specifically other than on preference – although research points to starting with weights first.

For more seasoned athletes, then you may wish to take the research on board – weights first every time. The benefits you’ll see by ordering your sessions this way include:

  1. More fat loss
  2. Normalized leptin
  3. Increased muscle and fat free mass
  4. Increased strength

It requires no extra energy, and could make all the difference.


  1. Sjodin, AM et al. The influence of physical activity on BMR. 1996 Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 28:8591
  2. Patrick, M et al. The Effects of a Combined Resistance Training and Endurance Exercise Program in Inactive College Female Subjects: Does Order Matter? Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2014; 28(7) 1937–1945
  3. Whatley, JE. Does the amount of endurance exercise in combination with weight training and a very-low-energy diet affect resting metabolic rate and body composition? Am J Clin Nutr. 1994; 59(5): 1088-1092 
  4. Sheikholeslami-Vatani, D et al. The effect of concurrent training order on hormonal responses and body composition in obese men. Science & Sports. 2015;
  5. Dolezal, BA et al. Concurrent resistance and endurance training influence basal metabolic rate in nondieting individuals. 
  6. Gotu, K et al. Effects of resistance exercise on lipolysis during subsequent submaximal exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007; 39(2): 308-15.