You go to the gym, right? At least once or twice a week you pack your duffel bag full of workout clothes, prepare a mean playlist on your phone and get ready to give it your best at your local gym.

So, how do you go about doing it? Naturally, you first need to stretch, to prepare your muscles and tendons for the strain which you are about to throw their way. After stretching has been done, you do some cardio to warm up, right?

Are you sure that’s right? Even though a lot of people do cardio first and then move on to strength exercises, there are those in fitness business who claim that it should be the other way around. And they are not wrong; well, not entirely.

If Your Goal Is Weight Loss

Many people join a gym in order to lose some weight. If that is your case, you might want to reconsider your workout order.

Several studies have pointed towards the need to put strength exercises ahead of cardio. The scientists measured the effectiveness of doing cardio before strength exercises like weightlifting, and compared it to the results of those doing weightlifting first, followed by cardio.

The results showed some noticeable advantages of doing weightlifting first, in terms of weight loss and calorie burning. Still, there are some caveats to this rule, the most important of which is that the cardio should be low intensity.

If you want to do crossfit or HIIT (high intensity interval training), you can combine it with regular cardio and get pretty good results; in fact, some of the results the researchers got were even better than with weightlifting.

The researchers have argued that this increased calorie burn comes from the way our bodies burn the fuel. Strength exercises will burn all the readily available energy in the form of sugars and carbs. That means that once you move on to cardio, your body will be forced to seek energy elsewhere – your fat reserves.

If You Are Looking to Bulk Up

On the other hand, if you aren’t concerned with weight loss, but rather want to build up your muscles, the researchers recommend the same thing – strength exercises before cardio, to the surprise of many in the fitness profession.

Doing cardio for an extended period of time is bound to drain you of some energy, which will certainly take away some intensity form your strength training. What’s more, gym goers who do cardio first tend to do fewer reps for each group of exercises, especially leg exercises which were most used during the cardio part.

In the short run, the difference is largely unnoticeable, but over time, it can be quite apparent.

If You Want to Stay Fit

Finally, if you are just looking to stay fit and in good health, the order at which you do these two exercise types is largely unimportant.

Well, not unimportant, but a lot less important in any case. You can try doing your exercise routine both ways and figure out which of the two suits you best.

Some people find that cardio tires them out so that they cannot do other exercises quite as effectively. On the other hand, if cardio pumps you up and gives you energy and motivation for more, by all means, apply cardio-strength order to your gym.

Is This Always the Case?

Like most scientific studies, these were conducted on numerous participants and the results are median values. That means that not all of these figures are as accurate and true for every person.

People’s metabolisms and energy levels differ greatly, which makes different kinds of training more or less suitable for them. The best way to figure out which one of these tips will work out for you is to try them out for a while.

You might want to consult a personal trainer to help you, but take anything they tell you with a pinch of salt since even fitness professionals don’t know everything.

Going to the gym is an integral part of everyday life for a lot of people. That’s why it is important to figure out how to best use the time you spend there.

By Skyler West

Piper Skyler West: Piper, a sports medicine expert, shares advice on injury prevention, athletic performance, and sports health tips.