Steady State Cardio Can Still Fit in Your Workouts. Here's How.
This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.
UNLESS YOU'VE BEEN living under a weight rack for the past decade, you’ve heard of HIIT. Short for high intensity interval training, the protocol involves alternating short bouts of all-out effort with active rest, and it has become the go-to training modality for anyone looking to lose weight, build endurance, increase exercise capacity, and fast track just about any fitness goal.
But here’s the thing: While hugely effective, HIIT is also incredibly stressful on the body (if you do it the right way). Do it more than a few times a week, and you’ll elevate your risks of overtraining and injury, both of which can hamstring your progress and shortchange your results.
That’s why top trainers still don't hesitate to incorporate the OG cardio training method—low intensity steady state (LISS) training—into their clients’ weekly routines. The less extreme protocol is the perfect offset to HIIT workouts, and it might just be the performance and fitness level game-changer you’ve been looking for in your own training plan.
What Is LISS?
Low intensity steady state training is, in a few respects, the opposite of HIIT. While HIIT involves repeated bursts of max-effort work—take the all-out 20-second periods of a Tabata session as the classic example—LISS is all about sustained effort. If you’ve ever gone for a jog, taken a long walk or bike ride, or otherwise been active for an extended period of time during which you elevate your heart rate slightly (50- to 65-percent of max) but are still able to hold a conversation, you’ve performed LISS.
The reason that LISS takes a backseat to HIIT in many training programs is that it’s the tortoise to HIIT’s hare. Like HIIT, LISS can help you burn fat, build endurance, and increase exercise capacity—but the time you need to spend doing it to achieve those results is typically much longer. There's also the engagement factor. For some people, running, pedaling, or swimming for more than a few minutes can feel interminable.
So, why should you do still do LISS? As mentioned above, your body can only take so much HIIT, and LISS can help you recover from those high intensity workouts faster while also supporting your larger fitness goals. (You might just prefer LISS to HIIT. That's also allowed!)
How to Incorporate LISS into Your Training Plan
Alternate high intensity workouts (e.g., HIIT, circuit training, heavy lifting, etc.) with LISS. These less intense workouts can also serve as a particularly useful “active recovery” option during days that you want to elevate your heart rate and calorie burn while still allowing your muscles to repair and adapt. To that end, LISS works particularly well on weekends—but don’t limit yourself to traditional LISS activities.
Sure, walking, jogging, easy swimming, and leisurely biking are all ways to weave LISS into your routine. But so is yoga. Indeed, any activity that elevates your heart rate while still allowing you to carry on a conversation counts. The key is to sustain a low to moderate intensity activity level for at least 20 minutes—just enough to break a slight sweat, but not enough to make you out of breath.
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