High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) vs Steady-State Cardio

November 21, 2021

HIIT Versus Steady-State Cardio Training

Here at our personal training studio in Richmond, BC, we often get asked whether it’s better to work out slow and steady or turn to HIIT. If you’re looking to lose some weight or you want to get fit, cardio is an absolute must-do. Not only will you burn many calories, but you’ll improve the function of your lungs, heart, and any muscles you use. Both HIIT and Steady-State Cardio have benefits and drawbacks, so which one should you choose?


Personal Training Basics: What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. Whether you’re using a private gym, cycling, or running, it involves working far harder for shorter intervals during your workout. HIIT means you push your body a lot harder for periods ranging from a few seconds up to eight minutes, and you’ll need to work at around 80 – 90% of your heart’s capacity to make it count. At the end of each workout period, you’ll enter a recovery period of around the same duration – although it can be shorter or longer.


The Pros of HIIT

HIIT offers several benefits. First of all, it works out both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, resulting in more stamina building and ultimately improving your performance rapidly. You’ll also burn more calories in the recovery period as your body exerts energy.

Post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) gets higher you work. That means you’ll continue to burn calories for up to an hour after you finish in the gym. HIIT is also a fantastic way to burn belly fat, and it’s great for your heart, lowering blood pressure.

Many people prefer HIIT, the fact that the workouts are shorter is really convenient, too – but HIIT does also have some drawbacks.


The Cons of HIIT

HIIT can get a little uncomfortable, and it certainly won’t suit everyone out there. If that’s the case for you, try adjusting the intensity of training to suit your particular fitness level. Another con with HIIT is that it’s not often the best way to get into training. If you’re a beginner, you might want to start slow before you begin HIIT to minimize the risk of injuries.  

If you’re not using a personal trainer in Richmond, even when you’re more used to working out, be careful to warm up properly with HIIT. That’s because the nature of the training still leaves you more open to injuries.


What is Steady-State Cardio Training?

Steady-State Cardio Training (also known as LISS - low-intensity interval training) is a lot more akin to how most people around gyms in Richmond, BC think about or approach working out. You train at a more consistent, steady rate across your workout – probably at about half your maximum capacity, given your specific fitness level. How hard you push is likely to increase as you get more fit, but you’ll still sit some where around 50% most of the time.


The Pros of Steady-State Cardio

Steady-State Cardio Training also offers several benefits, depending on who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. It’s typically more comfortable because there is far less stress on your cardio respiratory system. It can also lead to better endurance because you tend to work out for more extended periods. Steady-State is also a lot easier to recover from in the shorter term than HIIT. Because of all that, many people tend to find this method of working out to be more enjoyable than its higher intensity counterpart.


The Cons of Steady-State Cardio

Compared to HIIT, Steady-State Cardio Training takes longer than HIIT, which doesn’t suit everyone in today’s busy world. Working out for longer periods can also get a little boring, especially if you don’t particularly enjoy training, running, or cycling, for instance. Steady-State Cardio Training can also lead to repetitive stress type injuries, and you’ll need to know when to step things up according to your fitness level in order to avoid stagnation in terms of results.


HIIT or Steady State: What’s Right for You?

As a personal trainer in Richmond, I hear this question all the time: which one is right for me? The answer really does depend on who you are, how your fitness levels currently sit, and what you want to achieve from working out.

HIIT can work great for more experienced fitness enthusiasts who are more able to accommodate intense workouts. If you’re relatively fit but need to lose weight quickly, it could be a good option. Obviously, HIIT is also an excellent choice if you’re pushed for time or get bored easily. Whether you’re attending a personal training studio or working out at home, both techniques are feasible.

Steady-State Cardio Training could be your best bet if you’re returning from an injury or have just been inactive for a long time. If you have a chronic injury or condition, it’s also going to be better to stick with Steady-State –but talk to your doctor first. If you’re training for a marathon, for instance, HIIT won’t be the best way to train because it doesn’t build endurance like Steady-State cardio does.

If you’re not currently fit enough, but you want to try HIIT, start steady and build toward it. You can even move to aerobic interval training in-between. Some people also combine Steady-State Cardio with HIIT in the longer term.

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Written by

Ken Lu

Ken has a Bachelor's Degree of Psychology from the University of British Columbia, specializing in Sport Psychology. As well as being a Certified Personal Trainer, Ken is also a Movement & Mobility Specialist, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He has trained for and won the 2018 NPAA BC Men's Physique Championship.