Endurance First or Strength First? The Best Training Order for Triathletes, Runners, and Cyclists

Endurance First or Strength First? The Best Training Order for Triathletes, Runners, and Cyclists

As a triathlete, runner, or cyclist, you know that endurance training, or “cardio,” is a crucial part of your training regimen. But when it comes to deciding whether to do your endurance training before or after strength training, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. 

The best approach will depend on your specific fitness goals and the type of workouts you’re doing.

One factor to consider is the role of AMPK and mTOR in your body. AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) is an enzyme that plays a role in regulating energy balance in the body, while mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) is a protein that helps to control cell growth and metabolism.

Research has shown that high-intensity cardio can increase AMPK activity, while strength training can increase mTOR activity. This suggests that doing cardio before strength training may be more effective for improving endurance and burning fat, while doing strength training before cardio may be more beneficial for building muscle and strength.

However, there are also other factors to consider when deciding whether to do cardio before or after strength training. 

For example, if you’re doing a high-intensity cardio workout, you may want to do it first to ensure that you have enough energy to give it your all. 

On the other hand, if you’re doing a more moderate-intensity cardio workout, you may find it more beneficial to do it after your strength training session to help you recover and cool down.

Ultimately, the best approach is to experiment and see what works best for you. You may find that one order works better for you depending on the specific workouts you’re doing and your overall fitness goals. Just be sure to listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel after each workout to help you determine the best approach for you.

What’s the role of AMPK?

Research has shown that endurance training can increase AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) activity in the body. AMPK is an enzyme that plays a role in regulating energy balance in the body, and it is activated in response to low energy levels.

AMPK activation can stimulate the formation of new mitochondria, a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis.

During endurance exercise, the body’s energy demands increase, and AMPK is activated to help restore energy balance by increasing the breakdown of glycogen and fatty acids. This can help to provide energy to working muscles and support endurance performance.

In addition to its role in energy metabolism, AMPK has also been shown to have other beneficial effects on the body, including improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation.

It’s important to note that the effects of endurance training on AMPK activity may vary depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise, as well as other factors such as diet and genetics. Further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between endurance training and AMPK.

What’s the role of mTOR?

mTOR is a protein that plays a key role in controlling cell growth and metabolism. It is activated in response to high levels of nutrients and growth factors, and helps to stimulate protein synthesis and cell growth.

In addition to its role in cell growth and metabolism, mTOR has also been shown to play a role in other processes in the body, including insulin signaling, energy metabolism, and immune function.

Activation of mTOR signaling in response to weight lifting is thought to play a key role in the adaptive response of muscle to resistance training, leading to increased muscle size and strength.

In certain situations, AMPK activation (endurance training) can interfere with mTOR signaling.

Besides, endurance athletes who include strength training generally do not need to worry about bulking up with muscle mass due to a high volume of aerobic training (calorie expenditure).

Caloric intake is an important factor to consider when it comes to muscle growth and maintenance. In order for muscle growth to occur, the body needs to be in a positive energy balance, meaning that it is taking in more calories than it is expending. 

A calorie surplus is necessary to provide the energy needed for the synthesis of new muscle tissue. However, it is also important to note that simply consuming a large number of calories does not guarantee muscle growth. 

The type and quality of the calories consumed, as well as the presence of other necessary nutrients, such as protein and carbohydrates, are also important factors.

Muscle mass can still be an important factor in endurance performance. Having a certain amount of muscle mass can help to provide the necessary strength and power to sustain a high level of effort over long periods of time. 

It is therefore generally recommended for endurance athletes to include some form of strength training in their training program to help maintain and develop muscle mass, but it is not necessary to focus on bulking up with large amounts of muscle mass.

Training program 

Here is an simplified example of a training program (pre-season, base phase) that shows workouts with endurance (low intensity) training followed by strength training:



  • Morning: Swim
  • Afternoon: 30-minute core strength training routine


  • Morning: Bike
  • Afternoon: 45-minute weight lifting session (legs and upper body)


  • Morning: Run
  • Afternoon: 30-minute yoga session


  • Morning: Swim
  • Afternoon: 30-minute bodyweight strength training routine


  • Morning: Rest day
  • Afternoon: AR spin


  • Morning: Long run
  • Afternoon: 45-minute weight lifting session (core and upper body)


  • Morning: Bike
  • Afternoon: 30-minute yoga session

I have written a weekly training program follows the pattern of endurance training (like zone2) in the morning, followed by strength training in the afternoon. 

The endurance training sessions are focused on the three disciplines of triathlon (swimming, biking, and running), and the strength training sessions include a mix of weight lifting and bodyweight exercises. 

This schedule allows for adequate recovery time between workouts and allows for a balanced training program that includes both endurance and strength training.

Let’s have a look at how we could combine LIT, HIIT with strength training:

  1. Plan your training week so that you have a mix of low-intensity, high-intensity, and strength training sessions. For example, you might do a low-intensity endurance session (such as an easy run or bike ride) in the morning, followed by a strength training session in the afternoon. On another day, you might do a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session in the morning, followed by a low-intensity endurance session in the afternoon.
  2. Use low-intensity endurance training as active recovery between higher-intensity or strength training sessions. For example, you could do a low-intensity swim or bike ride on the day after a hard run or weight lifting session to help flush out lactic acid and aid in recovery.
  3. Incorporate strength training exercises that have a cardiovascular component, such as plyometrics or circuit training (for example: weights + cycling or a hill circuit). These types of workouts can help improve both strength and cardiovascular fitness at the same time.
  4. Use strength training as a way to improve your endurance. For example, you can do strength training exercises that target the muscles used in your endurance sport, such as squats and lunges for runners or push-ups, swim cords, pull ups and rows for swimmers.