If you had to choose the better runner – a sprinter or a marathon runner – the answer would depend on the type of race. In a 200 meter race, the sprinter has an advantage over the marathon runner, but if it requires 18 miles, for example, the marathon runner will overtake the sprinter.
So you should think about high intensity interval training (HIIT) and low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio. One type of exercise isn’t necessarily better than the other, but depending on your fitness goal, one may be better for you.
What exactly is the difference between HIIT and LISS Cardio? HIIT involves alternating between short bursts of intense exertion with periods of rest or active recovery. There are many ways to do HIIT, but some of the most popular work-to-rest ratios are 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest, 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest, or four minutes alternating between 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest ( also known as Tabata).
LISS Cardio is a low-intensity workout like walking, jogging, and cycling at a relatively easy pace.
“If you want to do a marathon, a mud run or an endurance activity, put some energy into LISS. But if you want to be more explosive, athletic, or build muscle, HIIT workouts are the best way to help, ”said Rafique“ Flex ”Cabral, a NASM-certified personal trainer and isopure athlete.
To help you decide which type of exercise is best for you, here are several different scenarios where HIIT or LISS might be more beneficial.
If you are new to the sport and just want to move
Whether you’re a newbie to the gym or starting your workout again after a break, LISS is a great way to make your workout easier. Because you are working at a low intensity, you may be able to train longer and exercise more regularly. HIIT workouts, even if they are shorter, require more exertion on your muscles and can put stress on your joints.
“Older adults achieve excellent results with LISS Cardio, as it improves their bone density and the health of the musculoskeletal system, thus promoting healthier aging. These benefits also provide a cost-effective means of promoting positive improvements in the ability to perform activities of daily living, ”said Lisa Reed, MS, CSCS, performance trainer and owner of Lisa Reed Fitness, LLC.
If you want to lose weight and get your metabolism going
Any type of LISS cardio workout will burn calories and help you meet the calorie deficit you need to lose weight. But increasing the intensity of your workout will ultimately help you burn more calories, which gives HIIT a benefit.
“LISS is ideal for improving endurance activities and cardiovascular performance and supports recovery and weight loss. But if you’re trying to build muscle that will help burn fat, LISS may not be the best thing to often include in your routine, ”explained Cabral.
HIIT helps you gain and maintain moderate amounts of lean muscle mass. It also creates an afterburn effect known as post-exercise excess oxygen depletion (EPOC), Cabral said. EPOC is the amount of calories you burn long after your workout, and HIIT is the most effective workout for stimulating EPOC, according to the American Council on Exercise.
The afterburn effect of EPOC can last anywhere from 12 to 48 hours, according to ACE. “[With HIIT] You’ll get an afterburn effect with 25 percent more calories burned after exercising than running or walking, “Reed said, and your metabolism can increase up to 10 percent for three days after a HIIT workout. “Maintaining a routine that includes HIIT training three to four times a week will help increase this post-workout effect on your metabolism,” said Cabral.
If you want to improve your athletic performance
“Including resistance training in your HIIT training can help build and maintain muscle, especially your type II fast-twitch muscle fibers that are necessary for exercise,” said Cabral.
They have two different muscle fibers: Type I (slow twitch muscle fibers) and Type II (fast twitch muscle fibers). Your Type I muscle fibers are built for endurance activities like running a marathon and long distance cycling, while Type II muscle fibers are designed for fast, explosive movements. Think of: sprints, jumps, and heavy lifting.
So if you want to improve the height of your jumps or increase the load on your deadlifts, HIIT is the way to go.
However, HIIT is extremely taxing on the body, so you shouldn’t do it every day. Doing HIIT two to three times a week is more than enough, and you should recover at least 48 hours between your workouts after doing ACE.
LISS Cardio is a great way to diversify your workout and avoid overtraining. Mixing in low-intensity exercises, like walking or a leisurely bike ride or swimming, allows you to get some exercise while your muscles relax.
When you don’t have a lot of time to exercise
The great thing about HIIT is that you don’t have to work nearly as long as LISS Cardio to get an effective workout, and you can customize your workout with different exercises and equipment.
“HIIT workouts are a great way to increase your exercise intensity in a short amount of time – 20 minutes or less. You can also keep things interesting by rearranging the order or swapping different exercises from strength to high intensity movements, ”Reed said.
For example, a HIIT workout that includes squats followed by jumping rope will burn fat, burn calories, and activate muscle strength, Reed said.
In fact, a small study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the calorie expenditure of nine healthy men who completed 30 minutes of strength training, endurance cycling, endurance running on a treadmill, and HIIT training. The results showed that HIIT burned more calories than the other three workouts, suggesting that you can burn more calories with a 30-minute HIIT workout than with steady state cardio in the same amount of time.
That’s not to say that you can’t get a great workout out of LISS Cardio too. LISS Cardio can help you to get more exercise in your day and at the same time to take advantage of the training. However, HIIT can be helpful if you want to get more out of your workout in less time.
How can you make your HIIT and LISS workouts more challenging?
To improve your LISS cardio workouts, Cabral recommended that you include different types of activities in your routine, such as running, cycling, swimming, and rowing.
When it comes to HIIT, Cabral says experimenting with different variables can spice things up. Some ideas: “Decrease rest time while increasing work hours, or increase both work and rest times, add more laps, and increase the weights for strength-based movements,” said Cabral. “HIIT workouts
How many times a week should you do HIIT and LISS training?
Reed recommended incorporating both LISS Cardio and HIIT into your exercise routine to reap their health benefits. “My philosophy has always been that every little bit counts. Walk at least 30 minutes, five times a week, and do a HIIT workout two to three times a week [for] 10 to 20 minutes per workout, ”suggested Reed.
Another great way to add both LISS Cardio and HIIT to your routine: do a 15-minute HIIT workout followed by 30 minutes of LISS Cardio. “You will burn more calories from fat if you follow HIIT with every LISS activity,” Reed said.
Cabral recommended using a HIIT to LISS ratio of 2: 1 for building muscle, and if your goal is more endurance-based, reverse that ratio.
For beginners, Cabral suggested exercising two to three times a week and working your way up to three to five times a week.
“Your fitness goals determine the balance of what you need to look and function the way you want. Everyone is different, so finding that balance can take a bit of trial and error, which ultimately pays off as you figure out what works best for you, ”said Cabral.