These training protocols both have great benefits and some downfalls. Let us compare steady state cardiovascular training and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). They are both excellent training methods to loose weight and improve cardiovascular fitness however the downfalls of each, can hinder your progress. This will help you to figure out which method is best for you, to gain the results you desire.
Conventional pre historic steady state cardio involves, continuous rhythmic movement of large muscle groups, for a non stop period of time. The length of time and intensity is dependant on your goals;
- For weight management: low-moderate intensity, 50-70% max heart rate (MHR) for up to 60 minutes, 3-5 times a week.
- To improve cardiovascular fitness: moderate – high intensity, 70-80% MHR, 20-30minutes 2-3 times a week
This method of cardiovascular training will help you to loose weight, unfortunately this loss also includes the precious muscle mass you have bleed, sweat and cried for. In addition too much high impact aerobic training (e.g. Jogging) can result in damaged connective tissue which can lead to arthritis.
To calculate MHR: 230 minus your age.
To combat the loss of muscle but still burn fat, include low Intensity Steady State cardio (LISS) into your routine. LISS is pretty much what it says on the tin, 45-60% MHR for 30- 60 minutes. LISS is great if you have injuries, are overweight or suffer from a disease which effects your joints and or heart, as it does not involve high impact on your joints or strenuous pressure on your heart. The low intensity of LISS means that fat is the primary source of fuel however this is quite a lengthy time to train aerobically on top of resistance training, which can be unrealistic to fit into your every day schedule.
When running short of time HIIT can come in handy, short bursts of all out effort, 80-95% MHR followed by short lower intensity intervals or complete rest intervals (trust me these rest periods are never long enough and feel shorter and shorter the closer to the end you get). Aim for 15-20 minutes and your done. HIIT has become favourable as of late because research has shown it preserves more muscle mass than steady state cardio. This preservation is down to two reasons, one being the stress placed on the muscles is similar to weight lifting. The other is down to its shorter session time, after 40-45 minutes of cardio your body starts to loose muscle, just compare a marathon runner with a sprinter.Who wants to look like Mo Farah when you can looked ripped like Usain Bolt! HIIT training also burns more fat than steady state cardio as it stimulates the metabolism to keep burning once the workout has finished due to EPOC (Excessive Post exercise Oxygen Consumption) or ‘after burn’. One negative aspect of HIIT, is that it should not be completed more than 3 times as week. It puts a lot of stress on your central nervous system, requiring longer rest to fully recover. Not to mention it can be tough to conjure up the energy to complete HIIT, if you have just finished an all resistance session but who said training was easy! Train insane or remain the same!!
For the best fat loss results, your routine should include a mixture of the above, to give your body the after burn from HIIT but also allow your body to recover while performing LISS. LISS can promote recovery by encouraging blood flow to damaged muscles. In saying that, everyone is different, try to mix it up and figure out what is best for you! Remember steady state cardio does not have to be completed in one full session it can be spread out through day.