Should You Lift Weights Before or After Running?

Young woman training with weights
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Strength training is very beneficial to runners, as well as being an essential part of any fitness routine. It's good to work strengthening exercises into your schedule, either weight-lifting or bodyweight exercises. You may wonder whether you can lift weights and run on the same day and if it is better to do running first and lifting second, or vice versa.

Amount of Strength Training and Cardio Recommended

The recommendations for cardio and strength training will usually result in more running days than strength training days. It's recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get cardio exercise most days of the week, with 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (brisk walking or easy jogging) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (running). Strength training is recommended to be done two to three days per week.

Running Plus Strength Training Workouts

If your main goal is running and general fitness, you can do strength and cardio workouts on the same day rather than on alternate days. However, it is a widely held belief that if you want to develop big muscles you shouldn't do cardio and strength exercises in the same workout. That view has some research evidence, but there is contrary evidence as well. With mixed evidence, separating your workouts is unlikely to be needed unless your main goal is bodybuilding.

Sequence of Running and Strength Exercises

Some research studies have shown that there is no difference for younger people in muscle strength and power if you do your strength training before or after a cardio workout such as running. However, a review of studies found it better for elderly men to do strength training first, then cardio, to maximize gains in strength, although no difference was found in some studies.

Whether you should do running or strength training first in your workout depends on which activity is most important to you—that's the one you should start with. If you are primarily a runner, your focus is to build and maintain cardiovascular endurance, so you should run first.

Reasons to Run First and Lift Weights Second

One of the reasons runners should run first is that your run will be more effective when your energy supplies (available fuel) are highest. If you strength train first, you'll deplete some of that energy, and you most likely won't run as long or hard as you could if you ran before strength training.

Another benefit is that you'll burn more total calories than if you lift first. That's because most people will be able to run longer and at a higher intensity if they run first because they won't be fatigued from a pre-run strength training session.

Doing strength training after your runs is a good reminder to also do some post-run stretching. You can go through your strengthening exercises, finish with some stretches, and finish feeling like you had a nice, balanced workout.

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