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What is the best type of cardio? HIIT or LISS? The Cardio Debate…


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We all know how effective cardio can be for shredding body fat right?

Done correctly it can help you quickly get you fit, shed those pounds, blitz love handles and exterminate tummy roles!

The 2 most common types of cardio for gym bunnies are HIIT & LISS. Both can be very effective for fat loss and boosting cardiovascular health, however both are completely different and produce varying effects.

What’s the best?

Well that depends! but i’m going to delve deep in this article to help you decide what’s best for you.

In this post i’m going to educate you on both HIIT and LISS, and provide you with the tools you need to create a ‘kick ass’ cardio plan that gets the results you want and suits your lifestyle!

Ill be covering…

  • What is HIIT and LISS?
  • The Pro’s & Con’s of each
  • How to use HIIT & LISS to your advantage
  • How to design a ‘kick ass’ cardio plan
  • I’ll also be sharing plenty of extra ‘golden nuggets’ and ‘knowledge bombs’ – which i’ve picked up over the past 10 years of being fully immersed in the fitness industry (completing close to 12,000 1 x 1-1 coaching sessions!)
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What is HIIT?

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HIIT stands for ‘High Intensity Interval Training’. It’s a training technique in which you exert maximum effort for quick intensive bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active recovery periods. (1).

An example would be to sprint 100m as fast as possible, followed by a slow 100m walk, this would be classed as 1 set, which you would repeat for a period of time until the desired outcome is achieved or until fatigued.

HIIT Pro’s:

  • Workouts take far less time
  • Get a great workout in under 20 minutes
  • Burn more calories over a shorter period of time
  • Hugely rewarding.  According to Fitness Radical – You get a surge of ‘feel good’ endorphins that rush to your brain after – leaving you feeling amazing (mentally! not physically!) and usually for hrs to come
  • Perfect for the person with a busy lifestyle, who doesn’t have the luxury of spending hrs in the gym
  • Ideal for building muscle
  • Improves your fitness
  • Fun and challenging

HIIT Con’s:

  • Extremely exhausting
  • Takes longer to recover between workouts due to the stress placed on the body
  • Increases the risk of injury due to intensity on muscles, joints, and the heart
  • Not doing HIIT correctly – here are nine common mistakes people make when doing HIIT training. Make sure you avoid them.

What is LISS?

LISS training for fat loss - What is the best type of cardio

LISS, or ‘Low Intensity Steady State’ cardio is the complete opposite of HIIT training. Instead of pushing yourself to breaking point for a short burst of time, you aim for a low level of exertion for a longer, more continuous period (2).

An example would be going on a long, continuous, brisk walk.

LISS Pro’s:

  • Requires less effort
  • Less taxing on the central nervous system, muscles, joints, and heart
  • Recovery is far quicker between sessions
  • Can complete LISS sessions more frequently
  • Perfect for the person with more time, or nursing a mild injury
  • You can multitask! yep! I often answer e-mails, and write posts for the LEP Facebook page whilst performing LISS on a fitness bike

LISS Con’s:

  • Takes up more time
  • Can be boring at times
  • Arguably much less satisfying than a HIIT session

How to use HIIT & LISS to your advantage…

There are plenty of factors that come into play when deciding what’s best for you.

Here’s some to consider…

How much time do you have to go to the gym?

If your strapped for time (less than 30 minutes) and injury free your going to want to pick HIIT training, it’s going to give you the most bang for your buck! no doubt about it. If you have more time, you may want to consider the following…

How many times a week are you training? 

If your training 3x per week HIIT training can be very effective. If your training more (up to 5 sessions per week) then a mixture of HIIT and LISS may be wiser, allowing you to balance the opposite intensities to ensure adequate recovery between sessions.

What’s your current level of fitness?

If you are new to the gym, you don’t feel particularly fit, and your joints feel a little rusty then LISS training is a nice way of gradually building up fitness, burning body fat, without placing too much stress on the body.

If your ‘fit as a fiddle’ or have built up a decent level of fitness where you feel comfortable then HIIT training can take you to a whole new level of fitness and fat annihilation!

How to design a ‘kick ass’ cardio plan…

Personal Perspective of a Person Planning for Work

1) What’s your goal? 

First of all you’ve got to know what your end goal is. What do you want to achieve from training? It’s absolutely imperative to know what you want and have a plan of action so you can ‘kick ass’ in the gym and get results.

Hopefully by now you’ve realised that both HIIT and LISS can be super effective for fitness, fat loss, and boosting cardiovascular fitness. You’ve now got to decide what type of method suits you best based on the points mentioned in this post.

You could also combine both types of cardio into your program at the same time, for example my weekly cardio routine looks like this:

  • Monday – 45 mins LISS
  • Tuesday – 20 mins HIIT
  • Wednesday – REST
  • Thursday – 45 mins LISS
  • Friday – 20 mins HIIT
  • Saturday – REST
  • Sunday – REST

Once you’ve established your goal, planned out what type of cardio your going to do (HIIT or LISS or both!) you can then pick what piece of cardio equipment you want to use.

2) Picking the right machine(s)

Machines vary and there are specific benefits to each:

  • Rowing machine – works the back, leg and arm muscles
  • Cross trainer – works the arms and legs
  • Bike – works the legs
  • Stepper machine – legs
  • Treadmill – legs
  • Swimming – Full body (differs depending on stroke used)

My favourite machines for fat loss are the cross trainer and rowing machine because you use more muscles and increase full body circulation, which can be great for burning fat evenly around the body. These machines are also low impact and place less stress on the joints compared with running which is high impact.

If however your goal is more sports specific i.e. if your a rower then you’d probably be best picking the rowing machine! If your a football player you may want to build up your running, etc. It’s very case specific and depends on your goal.

3) The Workouts

There are endless varieties of HIIT and LISS workouts, but here’s a few that you could try:

HIIT Workout 1:

  • Machine: Fitness Bike
  • Duration: 20 minutes
  • Resistance level: 6-12
  • Warm up: 3 minutes of slow cycling gradually building up your pace
  • HIIT session: 20s sprint, cycling with maximum effort, followed by 40s slow recovery activity, repeat this 10x, totalling 10 minutes
  • Cool down: 2 minutes slowly tapering down speed

HIIT Workout 2:

  • Location: Park or Field (ideally on grass which is soft, flat and dry!)
  • Duration: 20-30 minutes
  • Warm up: 3 minutes of slow jogging gradually building up your pace + 2-3 minutes of movement stretches (arm swings, body twists, arm swings across the chest, etc)
  • HIIT session: Sprints: 50m sprint (maximum effort), followed by 60s slow walking recovery time, repeat this 10-20x
  • Cool down: 5-10 minute stretch
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HIIT Workout 3:

  • Machine: Rowing
  • Duration: 15 minutes
  • Warm up: 3 minutes of slow rowing gradually building up your pace
  • HIIT session: 150m row as fast as possible, followed by 150m slow recovery row, repeat this as many times as possible in 12 minutes
  • Cool down: 5-10 minute stretch

HIIT Workout 4:

  • Location: Swimming pool
  • Duration: 20-30 minutes
  • Warm up: 3-5 lengths of light breast stroke
  • HIIT session: 1 length of swimming as fast as possible (front crawl, or butterfly stroke), followed by either walk back or slow breast stroke), repeat this for 10-20 minutes.
  • Cool down: cold shower for as long as you can stand! (great for recovery and reducing inflammation)

LISS Workout 1:

  • Machine: Fitness Bike
  • Time Frame: 45-60 minutes
  • Resistance level: 6 -12
  • LISS Workout: 20-30km bike ride cycling at consistent pace throughout session
  • Cool down: 5-10 minutes stretch

LISS Workout 2:

  • Machine: Cross trainer
  • Time Frame: 45-60 minutes
  • Resistance level: 12-18
  • LISS Workout: Go for 45-60 minutes non stop (consistent pace throughout session)
  • Cool down: 5-10 minutes stretch

LISS Workout 3:

  • Location: Swimming pool
  • Duration: 30-45 minutes
  • LISS session: Alternate between front crawl,  breast stroke, backstroke – 1 length of each, then repeat for 30-45 minutes
  • Cool down: cold shower for as long as you can stand! (great for recovery and reducing inflammation)

LISS Workout 4:

  • Machine: Treadmill
  • Time Frame: 45-60 minutes
  • Set treadmill on an incline 10-20% and walk for 45-60 minutes
  • Cool down: 5-10 minutes stretch

Don’t forget the weights….

Weight training in my opinion is the best way to improve your body composition. If your goal is to re-sculpt your body shape, or build muscle you’ve got to lift! make-sure you factor this into your program. Typically I recommend putting your cardio pre training, then following up with weights.

If you’ve got 30-45 minutes in the gym you could do 10-15 minutes cardio, followed by 30 minutes of weights. This is largely how i train, sometimes I will do longer sessions 60-90 minutes but 30-45 minutes is definitely an adequate amount of time. Do this 4-5x per week, eat clean and get lean!

Here are some weight training articles that you may want to read:

Thanks for reading…

For more free resources and knowledge bombs please check out my blog (there’s over 1,000 free articles, workouts, videos, recipes, etc – you name it… i cover it)

I can also design you a custom meal plan to complement your training – get your custom meal plan here.

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Thanks so much for reading I hope this post helped, please leave your comments below if you have any questions and share with a friend if you think this can help them on their journey.

Stay tuned for my next post (I update the site every week with new knowledge bombs!)

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Nick Screeton