HIIT vs Steady State: Which Is Better?

Over the years there has been a lot of discussion around Cardio and which is best for losing weight or fat. So the question remains which is best, HIIT or Steady state cardio?

Cardio isn’t just good for losing weight though, it’s also important for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, looking after your heart which a lot of people seem to forget about, your heart, lungs, and blood vessels, making it important for almost everyone no matter what your goal is. However, the world of cardio is steadily becoming more confusing with a whole variety of different options cropping up seemingly every day.

If you look on the cover of most fitness magazines or even do a quick google search, you’ll see all manners of headlines claiming the “one simple way to lose fat” or “the best way to drop pounds”. These one size fits all ideas are not only incorrect, but can actually hinder your goals. That’s why when it comes to changing your body, knowledge and skepticism really is key.

HIIT is revolutionizing the fitness world, but that doesn’t mean that LISS should be forgotten. Both forms of cardio have their benefits, so it really comes down to which one better suits your situation. So, with this article, we’re going to examine the advantages and disadvantages of each type and which one is the right choice for you.

What are they?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training whilst LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State. The former refers to alternating between periods of high intensity (flat out) and low intensity for set periods of time. For instance, you might complete 20 seconds of squats followed by 10 seconds of intense jogging on the spot. HIIT is completed for rounds and tends to involve a variety of exercises that combine both strength and cardio together to make for a shorter workout.

On the other hand, LISS is where most people’s minds go when they think of cardio where you stick to a similar level of intensity for the entire workout. This refers to things like running, swimming, cycling, and rowing where you continuously repeat the same movement over and over for about 30-60 minutes with the same intensity.

What are the advantages and drawbacks?

A comparison of the two cardio methods are as follows, If you completed HIIT and LISS for the same period of time, HIIT would burn more calories. HIIT takes advantage of something called the ‘after-burn effect’ where your metabolism is elevated for a longer period after the workout has finished, meaning that you’re burning more calories even when you’re not exercising. This means that HIIT burns more calories after the session has ended whilst LISS burns more calories during the workout. As LISS is a lower intensity workout, it can therefore be completed for a longer period of time which may increase endurance and stamina.

HIIT has been known to increase (HGH) Human growth hormone by  450%, during the 24 hours following your session HGH is responsible for fat burning and Anti ageing. HIIT will also provide some muscular benefits on top of the cardiovascular ones. As you can shake up the exercises throughout the workout, completing each one for a shorter time individually, you can really focus on getting the most out of each one. Compare the physique of a long-distance runner to a sprinter, for instance. The sprinter tends to be more muscular because of the speed, power and strength required for short bursts of high intensity whereas the long-distance runner tends to be a lot thinner as the body relies more on their cardiovascular system over their muscular system.

Who is each one better for?

HIIT is better suited for the individual who has limited amounts of time and could be under time-pressure. If you can only fit in a certain number of workouts or each workout is time-restricted, then you’re going to get more from that amount of time by doing HIIT than LISS. Another advantage is it’s a good idea for people who just don’t like spending a lot of time working out but want to get good results.

However, if this form of cardio (Hiit) is on top of other workouts involving resistance training, then go with LISS. HIIT can affect recovery due to its intense nature whereas LISS is less mentally and physically draining. Due to its lower intensity, this is also why it can be a better option for those who have injuries or are beginners.

HIIT requires some level of base fitness due to its intensity. You also need to be familiar with the exercises in the workout as the short periods don’t offer any time for you to learn within the workout and the intense nature can mean that you’re more likely to injure yourself if you don’t know the correct form.

What are some example workouts?

A typical LISS workout would involve 30-60 minutes of swimming, rowing, running or cycling either out and about or on a stationary machine.

A HIIT workout can use all manners of equipment from pure body weight circuit training to barbells.

Here’s is one example of a full-body weight-only routine:

  • Push-ups x 20 seconds
  • Rest x 10 seconds
  • Squats x 20 seconds
  • Rest x 10 seconds
  • Mountain Climbers x 20 seconds
  • Rest x 10 seconds
  • Bicycle Crunches x 20 seconds
  • Rest x 10 seconds

Repeat for 4 rounds for a total of 8-10 minutes.

This could be used at the end of your workout to really burn some extra calories or as a standalone cardio workout. If it is a standalone workout, then I would also suggest including another HIIT routine afterwards. This would mean that you would be in and out of the gym in around 20 minutes.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s clear to see that both forms of cardio have their ups and downs, so it really just comes down to your lifestyle. Yet, if you want a clear-cut winner, then HIIT offers more benefits overall than LISS due to its versatility, time-restriction, and strength-building qualities, anti ageing and fat burning benefits. Being able to fit in a muscular and cardiovascular workout in under half-an-hour will suit many people’s lifestyles a lot easier than 45-60 minutes of running.

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14 Comments

  1. HIIT all day brother! Nice article Charlie. I don’t think many people realize the benefits of HIIT, especially the after burn effect. My go to is HIIT + intermittent fasting, if you haven’t done an article on intermittent fasting I would love to hear your opinion. Thanks for an informative article man

    • Hi thanks for the comments you left on my site, HITT is amazing and the benefits are also amazing like after burn and anti ageing, to answer your question yes I have done a post on intermittent fasting check it out on my site.
      Thanks again

  2. Hey Charlie! Thanks for breaking these two down. I normally don’t have too much time so I prefer HIIT training. Altho I do LISS training by walking or jogging with my dog. Thanks for this awesome article.

    • Hi thanks for leaving your comments, there was a time where i didn’t even know their was a difference between the two, I also prefer a HITT session, but on occasion do LISS when walking with my wife, so both can be Incorporated into any type of lifestyle and both have benefits.
      Thanks again.

  3. Hi Charlie,
    i have been following the content on your website lately and i find it really informative that’s why i left this comment in order to show my appreciation for your work.

    Thank you so much

  4. Such a pity older people did not listen to good advise to stay fit when they were younger. I was just wondering is there a difference in muscle structure of a long distance athlete and a sprinter. Do they develop the same Charlie, and can one do the wrong exercise for your muscle type?
    Very good info on keeping fit.

    • Thanks for leaving your comments, I believer that long distance runners and sprinters do differ based on alot of different factors such as make up from a genetic point of view, for example fast twitch and slow twitch fibers just to begin with. Hope that helps, thanks again.

  5. Wow, what a great and useful article. I really understand workouts to loose weight better now after reading this article. I know many friends and people who want to loose weight and are struggling, I will share your work with them for sure.

  6. Yep, I agree that LISS is better for those who’ve done resistance training earlier in the session or the day. During the summer months, I opt for LISS in the evening hours after training earlier in the day. Not just that, resistance training can also give off the impression of an HIIT workout if an individual is supersetting, utilizing tri, or even quad-sets. LISS will always work here.

    However, as you said if there’s only limited time, by all means, HIIT is the way to go and I’ve been in that position, too.

    • Thanks I think the best part of either method is if it can fit into your day and it aids you getting closer to your goal then what ever works best for you at the time, their are benefits for either one. Thanks again.

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