How do I Combine Cardio and Strength Training?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 March 2020
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Many health experts recommend a varied exercise routine that includes both cardio and strength training. By combining both elements, it becomes possible to maximize workout efficiency by burning fat and calories while building muscle and flexibility. Workouts that combine cardio and strength training may require some planning and endurance, but can pay off with increased fitness.

There are a variety of ways to combine cardio and strength training to get a great workout program. Some experts recommend alternating cardio and strength workouts on different days. On a five day workout plan, this might mean that Monday, Wednesday and Friday are spent doing cardio exercises such as running, swimming, or dancing, while Tuesday and Thursday are strength training days that involve weight lifting, Pilates, or toning classes. Alternating workouts allows the body to rest between sessions, lowering the risk of injury and allowing higher performance levels.

Some workouts combine cardio and strength training in one exercise session. Boot camp workouts, available in gyms, online, and through workout videos and DVDs, combine periods of cardio exercise with strength moves. Boot camp workouts require a lot of energy and strength, and may not be the best choice for someone just starting a workout. For those who work out regularly but are not seeing great results, a boot camp workout may be just the boost needed to help improve fitness, lose weight, and tone muscles.


Lower impact workouts that combine cardio and strength training are available as well. Any exercise class that combines dance with yoga or Pilates may be a great way to get both cardio and strength training at the same time. While high-energy dance moves will get the heart pumping and burn calories, intervals of yoga poses and Pilates moves will work to improve strength and tone. Many dance studios and gyms offer classes tailored to beginners, making Pilates or yoga-dance classes a great way to start a new workout program.

It is important to remember that combined cardio/strength workouts can be exhausting and may require extra recovery time. If muscles are worked too hard or too frequently, it can make injury more likely and lead to fatigue or exhaustion. Some experts recommend doing combined workouts no more than three times per week, supplementing with low impact workouts such as gentle Hatha yoga or walks. Remember that fitness goals will only be farther away if an injury or exhaustion requires weeks away from a workout plan. By paying attention to the body's cues and resting between heavy workouts, goals may be attainable sooner.


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Post 2

@Scrbblechick -- Go with what your body tells you. If you're too wiped to do cardio after strength training, don't do it or reverse the order.

I think the disparity in workout advice comes from the fact that every person is different, with different metabolic rates, so there's never going to be a one-size-fits-all workout program, in spite of what you see on TV and what the fitness gurus say.

I have to be very careful about machines like ellipticals. The experts say these provide the best cardio workout, but I have bad knees and just can't deal with that kind of motion. Plus, they make me a little queasy. Listen to your body. That's your best guide.

Post 1

That's the trouble with wanting to combine strength and cardio training. No one agrees on the best way to do it. I saw one article that said one should do cardio and then strength training because the muscles were warmed up. Another article, also by a "fitness expert" said do strength training first because it burned more initial glucose, making the body go to other resources for energy during cardio, thus increasing weight/fat loss. Nobody seems to know what to do. It's frustrating.

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