Should You Do Cardio and Strength Workouts Together?

group strength workout on spin bikes
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We all try to figure out how to fit in all the workouts we need each week — ​cardio, strength training, flexibility, mind-body...the list seems endless.

With busy schedules and so many activities to do, you may wonder if it's okay to combine workouts to save time and get all your workouts in.

The answer is definitely a yes with one caveat: as long as it's in line with your goals.

Many experts suggest that it's best to keep cardio and strength training separate so you can give your best energy and effort for each type of training. When you combine the two in the same workout, some experts believe that whatever you do second will suffer a bit since you have the most energy at the beginning of your workout.

However, unless you're trying to become a bodybuilder or a fitness model, you don't need to be too terribly strict about your workout schedule.

How you set up your workouts depends more on your schedule than anything else and, for many of us, we don't always have time to do separate workouts and still get all of our training in each week.

Plus, who wants to get sweaty twice a day? Most of us have no desire to add more workout time or more laundry.

Ideas for Setting Up Your Cardio and Strength Workouts

If you're trying to find a way to combine workouts, I've got a variety of ideas for you. And, you don't have to stick with one. If you have a busy week, you might do cardio and strength in the same workout or stick with circuit training.

If you have more time one week, you could do separate workouts. Mixing things up is a great way to keep your body guessing and stave off exercise boredom.

Option 1: Do Cardio and Strength on Alternate Days

With this option, you may end up exercising more frequently to fit in all your workouts, but each workout will get your best energy and attention and you may enjoy doing something different each day. A sample program might be:

Option 2: Do Cardio and Strength at Different Times on the Same Day

For example, cardio in the morning, strength in the afternoon. With this option, you give your body a chance to rest before doing the second activity. The downside, of course, is having to workout twice in one day which requires both time and energy. Here's a sample program:

Option 3: Do Cardio and Strength During the Same Workout

This option allows for some flexibility, especially if you have a busy schedule. When combining cardio and strength, choose the workout that's most important to you and do it first.

  • Monday: 30-Minute Cardio and Lower Body
  • Tuesday: 35-Minute Cardio and Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Yoga and Core
  • Thursday: Cardio Medley Workout and Lower Body
  • Friday: High Intensity Tabata Workout and Upper Body

Option 4: Do a Combination

There's no reason you have to follow the same training schedule all the time. If you have more time one week, try alternating workouts each day. If you're getting off work early one afternoon, add in a strength or cardio routine after work. Be creative and you'll find many ways to schedule your workouts.

  • Monday: 30-60-90 Interval Workout a.m., Lower Body Pyramid p.m.
  • Tuesday: 35-Minute Cardio and Upper Body, same workout
  • Wednesday:  10-Minute Yoga and Core, same workout
  • Thursday: 30-60-90 Interval Workout
  • Friday: Total Body Strength
  • Saturday: Low Impact Tabata Workout

Option 5: Do Circuit Training

Cardio and strength circuits allow you to combine both types of workouts while burning more calories, the perfect solution if you're short on time.

Now, there can be other benefits of doing cardio and strength together in the same workout. One study published in The Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science studied 30 obese women who were assigned to different exercise groups. They found that combining strength and cardio reduced belly fat more than cardio alone.

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Article Sources
  • Park S, Park J, Kwon Y, Kim H, Yoon, Park H. The effect of combined aerobic and resistance exercise training on abdominal fat in obese middle-aged women. Journal of physiological anthropology and applied human science. 2003;22(3):129–35.