Summer is fast approaching and everyone is talking about “cutting” down ready for their holidays or weddings that they are attending/having. Now to cut down and lean out, you will need to at some point be performing cardio during your training program to unsure you get the results you desire.

There are two types of cardio high intensity interval training (HIIT) and low intensity steady state (LISS), which I will be talking through both and hopefully help you make the decision on which form of cardio suits you.

What is HIIT

High intensity interval training is a form of cardiovascular training that is used to improve your fitness and conditioning, as well as being a great tool for improving fat loss. HIIT is performed close at your maximum heart rate, as the intensity as it says in the name is high. HIIT is a shorter workout, lasting no longer than 20 minutes if you are doing it correctly and going all out. This type of cardio is working your anaerobic energy system, meaning there is a lack of oxygen during the exercise, as the intensity is high and the rest periods are short.

There are a number of advantages for HIIT training when it comes to improving your body shape, as it is a fantastic way to burn body fat. HIIT training is mostly muscle sparing, this means that it is hard to use muscle/protein as an energy source. Is also doesn’t affect your recovery from resistance training sessions, so is the perfect way to enhance your results. As the length of the training is short and is easy to fit into your busy work days if you are limited on time and need to fit a quick workout in.

However, HIIT is added stress on the body. So, if you are looking to reduce or manage your stressors better, I would avoid this form of cardio until your lifestyle or training stress is managed. It is also a more advanced training method and if you haven’t done any exercise at a high intensity for an extended period of time then HIIT might not be your best starting point.

Good examples of HIIT training are sports like sprinting. Each bout lasts no longer than 20 seconds, even shorter depending on your speed and effort, it is then followed by a recovery time of 40 to 60s rests. The best way to program a HIIT workout is having a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio between active and rest, this will heavy depend on how well you recover between rounds and how fit you are.

What is LISS

Low intensity steady state is the opposite of HIIT as it is lower in intensity and lasts a lot longer. Steady state is normally longer than 30 minutes and can go on for a up to an hour or more. This form of cardio is training your aerobic energy system, with the presence of oxygen. This is because the effort is not maximal and the duration is a lot longer, so oxygen is needed to sustain the workout and performance. Examples of LISS are your running events like 10k runs and marathons, these all fall under this type of cardio.

LISS is again good as a fat loss tool but depending on the length of the workout and how lean you are it can compromise muscle mass if you are not eating adequate amounts of protein. Low intensity steady state is fantastic at aiding recovery if you go for a nice walk. Although if you are running for an extended length of time it can impair your recovery and affect your workouts in the gym. This can have a bad impact on your results, as resistance training is important and the key at maintaining your muscle and changing your shape.

It is a good option for those of you who have a lot of stress in your life, as it helps calm down the nervous system, helping to relax you and your mind. So, if you are one of these people this is the cardio type for you.

The best workouts that I do and recommend for my clients is either an incline walk on the treadmill or a nice stroll outside in the fresh air after a stressful day at work. The pace at which you walk is up to you but I recommend a good brisk walk, almost like a power walk, to slightly elevate your heart rate. The length of the workout, around 40 mins to start with and should be adequate for most but you can build on this and increase to an hour if you are enjoying it and want to progress your results.

What form of cardio do you choose

Based on the above, you should be able to make an informed decision on which cardio is better suited for your fitness, your goal and your lifestyle factors. There is no right or wrong answer as they will both help you towards your fat loss goal, alongside a good resistance training program.

Make sure you can fit them in and around weight training and make sure you are consistent at doing it but also make sure you enjoy3 it, as this is going to help with the consistency that is required to achieve your goals.