Steady state cardio is not only super boring and time-consuming, but also not nearly as beneficial (or efficient) as high intensity interval training. So what is high intensity interval training, or HIIT? Surely you’ve heard of it – or can guess by the name itself. This type of exercise ranges in length from as little as 10 minutes to as long as 30 minutes – and you are basically alternating between periods of very intense, breathless exercise, with recovery periods. Now, to each his own and if you are 100% happy with your body and love your steady state cardio then by all means, have at it. I, however, prefer the adrenaline rush I get from HIGH INTENSITY interval training (and lifting heavy weight) – so that is what I stick to in my regimen and that’s what works for me.
The types of HIIT you can do are endless! I love this type of workout because you get your heart rate elevated, get super sweaty, and then have a moment to breathe and recover, only to repeat the process! You will burn fat, improve your glucose metabolism and condition your heart better than any kind of steady state cardio. HIIT is also a lot more fun and exciting than steady state cardio. I never do steady state/conventional cardio. I keep my weight-lifting sessions fast-paced and heavy, so with limited rest these workouts double as cardio as well as resistance training. I also incorporate HIIT specific workouts ~3x per week – where I create a circuit for myself including rowing or running, plyometric exercises and weightlifting exercises (power cleans, clean and press, front squats, goblet squats, etc.).
If you are completely new to working out, I do recommend you start slow and work your way up to more HIIT sessions. Once prepared, HIIT is the best way to torch fat, speed up your metabolism, and allow you to eat more throughout the day since you’re burning more calories throughout the day. If you’ve been exercising now for a while, it’s time to ramp up the intensity and start to really push yourself – that is, if you want to improve your fitness levels and get a leaner body.
So why is HIIT better at burning fat than steady state? High intensity exercise increases your mitochondrial capacity – which increases your fat loss/fat burning capacity throughout the day as opposed to steady state – which only burns calories at that specific moment. Also, the body is very adaptive. And if you are only doing steady state cardio, over time you will have to continue to do more and more in order to continue to burn fat and/or lose weight. Essentially, when it comes to cardio, research shows that intensity matters more – not duration. Another benefit of HIIT is that it’s better at preserving lean muscle mass than steady state. We lose muscle mass as we age, so, I do everything that I can now to prevent this! Which includes HIIT and weightlifting. Excessive steady-state cardio actually reduces testosterone levels in men.
I am not here to tell you to stop all low intensity cardio and only do HIIT. This is just what works for me and what I prefer. I am able to eat like a horse and still be tiny, thanks to high intensity exercise and heavy weightlifting. (Hello, who wouldn’t love that!?) So unless you are a distance runner or someone who loves to bike long, long miles, I suggest you incorporate HIIT as opposed to solely steady-state cardio.
For ideas on how to create HIIT workouts, check out my blog here and mix and match some of those exercises to create your own circuit for 15, 20, or even 30 mins. You can also include a circuit at the end of a weight training session, e.g., a 10 minute circuit! As usual, any questions at all please don’t hesitate to ask me!