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The Cardio Debate: HIIT vs LISS

The Cardio Debate: HIIT vs LISS
Battle of cardio: HIIT vs LISS. If you’re in and around the fitness community, chances are you’ve heard the terms “HIIT” and “LISS” thrown around. They refer to opposing styles of cardiovascular training, and people enjoy getting heated about which one they think is better for fat loss. We are going to break down HIIT vs LISS, what both styles of training are, how you could include them into your fitness routine, and some of the costs and benefits associated with each style of training.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves short bursts of max effort training, broken up by periods of rest or less intense intervals. HIIT is often touted as one of the most efficient ways to train, as you can achieve a relatively high caloric burn in the respective time frame. HIIT can take on a variety of different forms, from sprints to circuits, plyos, tabattas and more. Often, group classes or HIIT training sessions include a mix of resistance training and aerobic exercises.

If you have access to a cardio machine (such as a bike, elliptical, treadmill or rowing machine) begin with a 10 minute light warm up before alternating minute to minute between high intensity intervals and recovery for a total of 15-20 minutes. Make sure to cool down properly for 5 minutes or so, as light exercise allows for the lactic acid to flush out of your muscles – that’s the “burn” you feel! If you exercise at home, you can still get a fantastic workout in. Here’s one to save and try:

  • Warm Up (5 minutes)
    • Boxer Shuffle
    • Jog In Place
    • Dynamic Full Body Stretching
  • Circuit 1 (x3)
    • Lateral Skater Jumps 45 seconds
    • Rest 15 seconds
    • Plank Body Saw 45 seconds
    • Rest 15 seconds
  • Circuit 2 (x3)
    • Weighted Walking Lunge 45 seconds
    • Rest 15 seconds
    • High Knees 45 seconds
    • Rest 15 seconds
  • Circuit 3 (x3)
    • Jump Squat 45 seconds
    • Rest 15 seconds
    • Push up 45 seconds
    • Rest 15 seconds
  • Circuit 4 (x3)
    • Burpee 45 seconds
    • Rest 15 seconds
    • Glute Bridge Hold 45 seconds
    • Rest 15 seconds
  • Cool Down (5 minutes)
    • Dynamic Stretching

As you can see, alternating between cardiovascular and strength exercises allows for recovery of the one system while you train the other, thus maximising time. However, there are some instances where HIIT training is not optimal, which is why it’s important to first decide what your goals are. If your primary focus is building strength, too much high intensity training can produce fatigue that will negatively impact your lifts. The taxing demands that HIIT places on your nervous system takes time to recover from, so keep that in mind when performing this kind of training. If you are performing HIIT on days where you are also lifting, we recommend keeping the HIIT session brief, and always after your lift. This ensures that the majority of your energy is devoted to improving your strength.

If your primary goal is fat loss, HIIT is an incredible tool to utilize! That being said, making sure you are getting enough rest and recovery between your HIIT sessions is crucial, which will enable you to push harder, perform better, and see the results you want. For someone who has never done HIIT style training before, start out with 2-3 20 minute sessions per week. From there you can gauge your recovery, and increase frequency or duration as necessary. 

How hard should you be going? During max output intervals, ideally your heart rate is around 80-85 percent of your heart rate max. This can be calculated by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 30 years old, the maximum amount your heart should beat per minute during exercise is 190bpm (220-30=190). This means the average, healthy 30 year old adult should aim to sustain a heart rate between 150-160bpm during high intensity intervals to maximize their training. During your “recovery” intervals, allow your heart rate to come down and normalize around 50% of your HRM.

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)

Low Intensity Steady State cardio, also known as LISS, falls on the other end of the cardiovascular training spectrum. Just as the name suggests, LISS is characterized by a longer period of sustained effort at a low-moderate intensity. This includes activities such as walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, biking, or the use of any cardio machine at a continuous pace.

LISS is commended for being easy on the body, requiring little to no recovery. Of all the ways to perform cardio, walking is by far one of the most popular. Walking is free, low impact, easy to adhere to, a great form of active recovery, and has many other benefits including mental and emotional relaxation. Walking can be performed inside or outside, alone or with others, and without any real equipment – maybe just shoes!

If you train heavy and hard throughout the week, or are recovering from an injury, LISS is a viable option for still getting exercise in, without adding unnecessary stress to your body. In fact, LISS can actually help recovery by increasing blood flow to damaged muscles. Low Intensity Steady State cardio could be performed everyday without any carryover fatigue, making it an excellent tool for increasing general health, athletic performance and quality of life.

One of the few drawbacks for performing LISS is that it can be viewed by some as time consuming. You would potentially have to walk or jog for about an hour to reap the same benefits as you would in 20 minutes of HIIT, but that being said, there are clearly lots of pros as well.

So which one is better for fat loss?

HIIT vs LISS? The truth is, neither.

The best form of cardio is going to be whatever you can adhere to on a consistent basis. Whether it’s going for daily walks, doing HIIT circuits a few times per week, or creating a schedule that includes both, what’s actually important is the fact that you are moving your body and providing your cardiovascular system with a stimulus to improve. HIIT is more physically demanding than LISS, but LISS will take more time to achieve the same caloric expenditure.  Either way, we recommend having a chat with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regime to make sure that you are ready to go!


Have you given HIIT vs LISS a try? Which do you prefer?  Let us know what has helped you by tagging us @reflexsupplements on Instagram and don’t forget to use the hashtag #ReflexNation to keep us in the know.

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