High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, has been the dominant cardio workout for gym rats for quite some time. Low-intensity, steady-state cardio was an afterthought – until recently, where it’s been gaining momentum.
Why has the opposite of what was the preferred cardio training approach back in the spotlight?
“People are burned out; they’re fed up with always pushing to their limits,” says Joe Holder, a Nike running and training coach. “LISS is a less intense alternative that allows you to decompress while offering full health perks.”
The good news is you don’t need to pick a side, if you still prefer the rigorous meat-and-gristle HIIT workout: both forms of training have their benefits.
“It’s about alternating between the two and taking advantage of the fat-burn benefits of all heart-rate training zones,” explained Anna Victoria, a certified NASM trainer and creator of the Fit Body Guide regimen.
This is what you need to know about each cardio workout:
What is it: Cardio exercises – running, swimming, biking, rowing – performed between a low-moderate intensity. Ideally you’re working in the 50-65% of your max heart range for a minimum of 45 minutes.
Benefits: This less intense form of cardio is easier on the joints, will build your resting heart rate, and is the best approach to fitness for beginners or people being introduced to fitness.
Downsides: It’s more time consuming, and the only way to challenge yourself once you peak…is to extend the length of your workout. And because you’re intensity-capped, you’ll never gain muscle mass or strength.
Burn potential: A woman who’s 150-pounds can crunch 350 calories in a 45 minute LISS workout.
What is it: HIIT is a cardio interval approach that has you going absolutely ham for 20-to-30 second burst intervals. You go 80-90% of your max heart rate, with complete rest periods in between.
Benefits: It’s a time-efficient workout, it’ll jumpstart your ticker, recruit additional muscles, and burn calories even when you aren’t at the gym.
Downsides: Without an aerobic foundation, you really have no hope of getting through a HIIT session. You need to pass the rites of LISS workouts first; HIIT training may be unsafe otherwise.
Burn potential: That same 150-lb woman can get rid of 190 calories in just 20 minutes.