How To Combine Cardio and Strength Training Into One Workout


If seeing “cardio day” on your calendar makes you shudder, you’re certainly not alone. While many people embrace aerobic exercise (looking at you, marathoners!), many others feel compelled to squeeze it into their routine to reap the heart-healthy benefits.

However, a recent 2024 study of people with overweight or obesity and elevated blood pressure in the European Heart Journal found that you can replace half of your aerobic workout with strength training to get some of the same cardiovascular benefits.

In the study, a combined exercise group that did both resistance and aerobic exercise lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 6 percent. Similarly, an aerobic-only group saw a 5 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol. Both groups also saw a 1-inch reduction in waist circumference.

These results were not found in the groups that did resistance exercise only or no exercise at all, so it’s still important to fit in cardio. However, the study shows reassuring evidence that you can split your workout into both aerobic and resistance training— and still enjoy some of the benefits of focusing entirely on cardio.

Plus, one additional perk: Only the combined exercise group improved both cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength.

All groups that exercised did so for one hour, with the combined group splitting aerobic and resistance exercise into blocks of 30 minutes each.

Study author Duck-chul Lee, PhD, professor of physical activity epidemiology at Iowa State University, also notes that combined exercise increased adherence rate over the one-year exercise trial.

“This suggests that adding weight lifting could be more sustainable than aerobic exercise alone in individuals with overweight or obesity,” Dr. Lee says.

Here are the best ways to pair cardio and strength training—plus, what to do if you prefer one over the other.

How to pair cardio and strength training

By combining your workouts, you’ll likely see improvements in both your cardio and resistance training performance. Aerobic exercises can help improve your muscle endurance, making it easier to lift weights for longer durations.

“Mixing different types of exercises in one session helps you balance your overall workout by targeting different muscle groups,” says Ellen Thompson, CPT, head personal trainer at Blink Fitness in New York City.

Here are Thompson’s suggestions for mixing cardio and weight lifting with 30-minute, 40-minute, and 60-minute workout options.

30-minute combined workout

Warm-up: Five minutes of light cardio such as jogging, brisk walking, or cycling to get your heart rate up.

Circuit training: Alternate between strength and cardio exercises. Perform each strength exercise for 45 to 60 seconds followed immediately by 30 seconds of cardio. Repeat for three rounds.

Example circuit:

  • Push-ups (strength) for 45 seconds
  • High knees (cardio) for 30 seconds
  • Dumbbell rows (strength) for 45 seconds
  • Mountain climbers (cardio) for 30 seconds
  • Squats (strength) for 45 seconds
  • Jumping jacks (cardio) for 30 seconds

Cooldown: Five minutes of stretching to help improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. (Here are the best full-body stretches in case you need some inspo!)

40-minute combined workout

Warm-up: Five minutes of dynamic stretching or light cardio to prepare your body for exercise.

Strength training: Complete compound exercises that focus on multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Perform three sets of each exercise with 10 to 12 reps for each set. Rest for 60 seconds between sets.

Example compound exercises:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Chest presses
  • Bent-over rows
  • Lunges

Cardio: Perform 30 seconds of HIIT followed by 30 seconds of low-intensity recovery for 15 minutes.

Example cardio exercises:

  • Sprinting
  • Jump squats
  • Burpees
  • Jumping lunges
  • Speed skaters

Cooldown: Five minutes of static stretching to improve flexibility.

60-minute combined workout

Warm-up: 10 minutes of light cardio combined with dynamic stretches to increase blood flow and loosen up your muscles.

Strength training: Divide your workout into upper- and lower-body exercises. Perform three sets of each, with 10 to 12 reps per set, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Example upper-body exercises:

  • Bench press
  • Pull-ups or lat pulldowns
  • Shoulder press
  • Biceps curls
  • Triceps dips

Example lower-body exercises:

  • Squats
  • Romanian deadlifts
  • Leg press
  • Step-ups
  • Leg curls

Cardio: 20 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio such as jogging, cycling, or the elliptical machine to maintain your heart rate.

Cooldown: 10 minutes of static stretching to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension.

“Mixing different types of exercises in one session helps you balance your overall workout by targeting different muscle groups.” —Ellen Thompson, CPT

How to overcome roadblocks to combined workouts

If you’re having trouble incorporating variety into your workout routine, it could be due to one of three reasons: old habits, uncertainty around techniques, or convenience.

“The human body and mind loves what it knows and what it is used to,” says Sarah Pope, CPT, personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Life Time Westchester. “It’s not until we push past those mental barriers when we learn the true beauty of our strengths and capabilities.”

When fitting cardio into your routine, think of it as a fun way to add variety to your workout. (Here’s a complete guide on how to make cardio workouts fun!)

“Doing the same thing all the time could also increase the chances of getting injured,” Pope says.

If you’re uncertain about how to perform certain cardio exercises, that can also deter you. If it’s possible for you, work with a personal trainer to better understand how to use the correct form, at least for your first few workouts.

Combining both cardio and strength training into your routine will also help prevent you from plateauing.

“Over time, your body can adapt to a specific exercise,” Thompson says. “This can lead to a plateau in progress. Incorporating a variety of exercises challenges your body, prevents plateaus, and promotes progress.”

Remember, you don’t need a gym to do both cardio and strength training. While it is convenient to visit a health club and use treadmills and stationary bikes along with weight machines and dumbbells, you can also take advantage of both types of workouts outdoors.

“People can also run outside, then add some resistance exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups, and squats using their body weight right before or after running,” Dr. Lee says.

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.

  1. Duck-chul Lee, Angelique G Brellenthin, Lorraine M Lanningham-Foster, Marian L Kohut, Yehua Li, Aerobic, resistance, or combined exercise training and cardiovascular risk profile in overweight or obese adults: the CardioRACE trial, European Heart Journal, 2024;, ehad827,


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