Time to stop the confusion between the two. There will always be advocates of one over the other but neither is bad. In fact, its better to incorporate both for a few reasons:
- Time management in the gym
- Active rest / recovery
- Maximizing fat loss
The great thing about doing HIIT is the workout is relatively short (20-30 min max, includes warm up and cool down), and the after-burn can last more than 24 hours which is great for burning fat and dropping inches. So, you go hard for that workout but then the work is done and you’re still dropping fat for many hours after! In case you don’t know what the after-burn or EPOC (Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) means, its a process your body goes through to replace the oxygen loss during the cardio workout. During the HIIT session the muscles don’t get all of the oxygen they need for the workout so when you’re done, the body is still working to return to a resting or ‘homeostatic’ state. This takes energy to do and it turns to the fat stores (or free fatty acids) in your body to do that.
The steady state cardio, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as difficult but it takes more time to do. Basically 30 – 45 minutes (I like 45 minutes to really dip into the fat stores) of low-moderate intensity cardio. So you’ll want to stay within the 65-75% MHR (Maximum Heart Rate zone). It can get boring for some people but you can be productive and make it funner. For instance, I will go for a ‘walk n’ talk’ with a friend or hit the elliptical and watch an episode of a sitcom on my ipad. The great thing about the steady state cardio is two-fold: its good for active recovery – will help repair muscles from the intense training you’re doing and you can be productive for those of you who are type- A personalities lol or not ;-).
I like to vary it and get 2 HIIT sessions in each week and the rest being steady state. If you choose to do more just try to space out the HIIT sessions so you give your joints and tendons time to recover. Ideally, 2 days in-between and if you can alter the type of cardio, even better. For instance, you can follow a cardio plan such as:
Monday – 45 minutes steady state on the treadmill, slight incline.
Tuesday – run stairs, run up; walk down is recover. Repeat until you hit the 20-30 min. mark.
Wednesday – stationary bike for 45 minutes, sit and enjoy your favourite show.
Thursday – hill sprints. find a big steep hill and follow the same protocol as for the stairs.
Friday – 45 minutes on the elliptical or arc trainer, work the glutes a bit more – who doesn’t want a great set of round glutes 😉
Saturday – 45 minutes ‘walk n’ talk’ with a girlfriend or your dog.
Sunday – run stairs. Throw in some plyometric moves to get variety (refer to this article http://bodyinfushion.com/rounding-those-glutes-a-must-in-your-workouts/ for some ideas)
Hope this clears up the confusion of which is better, because frankly, I think they’re both good to incorporate. Too many people think more is better and you have to go hard and kill yourself doing cardio when in fact, its the weight training that you should really push hard with more frequently.
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