Is High-Intensity Interval Training Replacing Steady-State Cardio?
By: Raymond San Giovanni
Working out is seen by most as a chore and less like an activity that they love doing. When talking to people about what they like most and least about working out, one common theme always comes up. Running. It makes complete sense! Whether it was your elementary physical education teacher that made you run a mile or your high school coach that made you run after a bonehead mistake, everyone can agree that it was not the most enjoyable activity. The idea that steady-state cardio is the best way to improve cardiovascular strength has been around since the first person ran from Marathon to Athens. For years the idea has been implemented and for years it has worked. Recently, a new way of thinking about running has emerged and threatened the rein of steady-state cardio. The new sensation is called High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT.
Robert is a high school football player and has been playing the sport since he was 8. He has always prepared for the season by lifting weights and strengthening his cardio by running long distances. He loves lifting weights in the gym and watching his muscles bulge in the mirror, but when it comes to his cardio workout, he loathes at the idea of getting his run started. Sometimes, he just decides to skip the running all together. When his coach notices him in the back of the pack, he asks Robert why he is so out of shape cardio-wise and Robert explains that he hates running. His coach explains that a new cardio paradigm has emerged to challenge the old way of thinking and it’s called High-Intensity Interval Training [HITT]. Rather than running distance at a constant speed, HIIT utilizes running at a high intensity for 30 seconds followed by a short rest period. Robert loves the idea when his coach tells him about it and immediately switches his cardio routine to HIIT. HIIT sounds a lot more enjoyable. You don’t have to run a long distance, you are only running for 30 seconds at a time, and you get a break in between. How is this not better that steady-state cardio?
“The truth is that both high-intensity interval training and steady-state cardio are effective in their own ways. The best system of cardiovascular training probably isn’t the all-or-nothing approach. Rather, it’s a blend of both higher and lower-intensity cardiovascular training that’s tailored to your body and your goals.”
Exercise scientists have now begun to debate which system is better. On one side, scientist believe that steady-state cardio is inefficient and the norm that everyone followed. On the other side, scientist believe that steady-state cardio provides indispensable benefits you can’t get from going “all out” on every repetition. And though many experts say super intensive cardio workouts are the future for athletes and the general population, many experts believe that there are drawbacks especially when the workout is implemented over long periods of time. So which side speaks the truth? In an interview with the health publication Experience Life exercise physiologist Jonathan Mike, MS, CSCS, from Albuquerque explains the difference. “The truth is that both high-intensity interval training and steady-state cardio are effective in their own ways. The best system of cardiovascular training probably isn’t the all-or-nothing approach. Rather, it’s a blend of both higher and lower-intensity cardiovascular training that’s tailored to your body and your goals.”
Case for steady-state cardio:
Why fix something that’s not broken? We undoubtably know this saying and generally follow it in our daily lives. Steady-state cardio has been a staple in physical training and for good reason. Many of your body functions such as everyday movements, digestion, breathing, walking, standing, and even sleeping are all controlled by your aerobic system (uses oxygen). HIIT training utilizes your anerobic system (uses no oxygen) , but also needs your aerobic system to recover. You may notice, you breath harder after doing a HIIT exercise and that’s why. According to physical therapist Charlie Weingroff “The aerobic energy pathways are the limiting factor to anything we do.” In simpler terms, the more you build up your aerobic system, the most beneficial it is for every system in your body.
Case for HIIT:
High-Intensity Interval Training can consist of sprints, shuttle runs, sprint, swimming, among many other things. Athletes have been using the training, but recently the general public has caught onto the fad. So, does HIIT really work? Mike Robertson, owner of IFAST gym in Indianapolis, explained in an interview with Experience Life. “If you’re trying to lose fat, it’s pretty clear that HIIT is a more effective tool than long-distance cardio. Regular HIIT workouts also improve your ability to withstand the rigors of other types of interval training.” Experts don’t know why HIIT is better at burning fat , but it may be because of the “afterburning effect”, when your metabolism goes into hyperdrive to recover from your HIIT workout. Per Justin Orr of Iron Orr Fitness, “HITT workouts elicit an EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) response from the body, and a client can burn calories at a higher rate long after an intense bout of HITT exercises.” As well, a 1994 study at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, found HIIT was nine times more effective for losing fat than steady-state cardio.
After analyzing both benefits of HIIT and steady-state cardio, which one should you choose to adopt? The answer is, both! Depending on your workout goals and physical limitations, every person should strive to incorporate a mix of both HIIT and steady-state cardio. If you are an athlete who plays a sport that involves short bursts of speed such as football, basketball, or a sprinter, you should incorporate more of a HIIT routine, but you should not overlook the benefits of steady-state cardio. If you are used to a casual workout routine, and usually just do steady-state cardio, try incorporating HIIT exercises you can handle. This will allow you to burn fat at a higher rate while also benefiting your aerobic system.
Choosing the right workout can be hard. If you are having trouble, or just want a little bit of guidance, visit our website at www.ironorrfitness.com to schedule a complimentary consultation. Our consults are free and absolutely no obligation whatsoever. We can answer the questions and concerns that are holding you back from being your best!