HIIT vs LISS Workouts: What’s the difference?
The variety in our workout options these days is incredible. Yoga, running, cycling, hot yoga, Tabata, pilates, cross-training, weightlifting, and the list goes on. Narrowing down how we want to move our bodies to make them as healthy and strong as they can be feels like a challenge, but we have an excellent place for you to start.
To hone in on how you can find workouts that fit your lifestyle, we’re going to compare two of the most general types of exercises to get you going: HIIT, which stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, and LISS, which stands for Low-Intensity Steady State.
HIIT and LISS are the two broadest approaches to cardio workouts, but be careful not to confuse cardiovascular exercise with running here; these types of workouts can contribute a whole lot more to your fitness routine than you’d think.
So when it comes to HIIT vs LISS, what is the difference exactly?
High-Intensity Interval Training
HIIT is characterized by short, extreme bursts of energy and work separated by periods of rest. While it can take the form of running—this would probably look like a sprint-based workout—you can incorporate HIIT in the weight room, on a bike, in calisthenics, and just about anywhere else you can find a burn. The beauty of HIIT is that you get to choose movements you already love and adapt them to the desired bursts of intensity.
The key is just getting your heart rate up about as high as you can stand it. The goal is 80% of your max. A great introduction to HIIT is a 1:4 ratio workout. This means you work for ¼ of the round and rest the other ¾. Start, for example, by doing 15 seconds of work—be it jump squats or running up a stair set or rowing at top speed—followed by 45 seconds of rest and so on.
Once you get used to this ratio, move to a 1:2 ratio at 30 seconds of work and one minute of rest. The popular workout Tabata goes for 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest on a loop for 4 minutes straight at a time. Like we said, your heart rate should be at about 80% of its max during the intense part of each cycle. Make sure you’re pushing yourself hard, but don’t overdo it.
Pausing between bursts is vital because the act of your body shifting from expending energy at such a high rate to coming down to rest and back up again yields high caloric expenditure. The result? Fat loss.
Some of the benefits of HIIT include speed (it doesn’t take more than a round of Tabata to get your heart pumping), fat loss, the convenience of adapting it to workouts you love, and EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), which means your body burns calories at a higher rate at rest long after you’ve finished your grueling workout.
Low-Intensity Steady State
LISS exercise, or Low-Intensity Steady State, is sort of the antithesis of HIIT exercise in the way it works with your body, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any less valuable. LISS cardio is an excellent approach to working out if you prefer something a little easier on the body. It also burns fat, supports posture, and is available to those at any point in their fitness journey.
Whereas HIIT workouts require hitting 80% max heart rate followed by periods of total rest, LISS workouts are all about keeping a consistent rhythm at about 50% of your max. This can also be adapted to many of the activities you love—walking and jogging, yoga, swimming, (gentle) hiking, and pilates, to name a few.
These workouts typically require a lot more time than HIIT. If we’re looking strictly at calories burned, one hour of high-intensity circuit training can burn over 750 calories while one hour of low intensity walking burns just over 230.
Keep in mind, though, that the amount of calories you burn in a workout isn’t an end-all-be-all of measuring fitness. LISS is extremely beneficial for recovery, supports blood circulation, can provide an excellent mental boost, and is undoubtedly beneficial for your body.
So all of this begs the question, what should I do—HIIT or LISS?
Fortunately, the answer here is super simple: you can be incorporating both into a healthy, well-rounded fitness routine. The way you do that is entirely dependent on your abilities, needs, and goals.
If you’re looking to get shredded, hitting a high-intensity workout three days a week and recovering with two days of the low-intensity movement in between is a very balanced week. Another balanced week could look like two days of HIIT sessions and three days of LISS sessions. Maybe you don’t find HIIT training appealing and prefer the more gentle application of low-intensity movement. That’s balanced too. And there’s also the potential to start with more of one and incorporate more of the other as you move forward.
The use of these types of movement in your routine is 100% customizable.
It’s your workout, and there are zero limits to achieving exactly what you set out to accomplish with either or both HIIT and LISS. Regardless of your fitness level, we make it easy for you to try HIIT and LISS at all of our locations and on our virtual fitness platform iChuze Fitness. However you become a part of the Chuze Family, whether virtual or in-club, we cannot wait to get to know you!