HIIT vs Steady Training

HIIT vs Steady Training.

HIIT or rather high intensity, interval training has become increasingly popular within the fitness industry and across the many multimedia channels. Bucking the trend of long steady training spent logging in the kilometres.  This new (or not as new as some might think) technique promises to burn fat fast and get your cardiovascular system working in overdrive for as little as 20mins hard work.

Well today were going to compare the pros and cons of both techniques and how you can include them into your own home routine.

First up it’s the young pretender, HIIT!

High intensity interval training is based around the concept that by working at maximum intensity for 10-30 seconds with long rests of 2-3mins or more your body to adapt more quickly to the high demands placed on it and in turn drastically improve your fitness. The variety in training stimulus also helps to prevent a plateau and means results should keep coming.

The more technical reason HIIT is so potent as a training method is because of the affect it has on your metabolism. When you perform HIIT intervals at the correct intensity your body’s demand for oxygen continues for many hours after the exercise and elevating your metabolism and thus burning more calories at rest. This is known as the oxygen debt. This is true in all exercise and is why your metabolism is higher after exercise. HIIT studies claim that this elevated metabolism can last as long as 48 hours following a 20min workout. While I would not personally back these claims up the body of evidence towards the benefits of HIIT are certainly growing.

HIIT can be performed in any way that allows you to work to a Very high (9-9.5 out of 10 for perceived exertion) intensity, stationary bikes, running, swimming to name but a few. You can start with ten seconds and build up to 30 seconds, the saying goes if you can do more than 30 seconds your not working hard enough.

Many workouts include short rounds of body weight and free weights such as lunges and burpees. While these provide a very challenging, beneficial and often fun and innovative way of training reaching the correct intensity can be difficult if not impossible. That’s not to say this is of no good to you just a slight compromise.

Next up, steady as she goes!

Steady state or long slow distance as its often known is a staple of any gym goers routine, from nervous newbie to marathon runners and triathletes. This method of training is based on the concept of working the heart aerobically for a prolonged period of time. This teaches the body to burn fat for fuel the longer and more frequently you train this way. So there we have it go long, go steady and all your weight loss dreams will come true!

Erm, well no unfortunately.

This training staple does have one major draw back to it, you and by you I mean your body. The human body is just too clever at adapting to All training methods and while you may see good results initially with this method of training it is vital that as you progress so does the way you train. Reading Vouge on the recumbent bike may have provided the distraction you needed to get started but before too long it will cease to deliver any results. To keep this training method working for you mix up steady efforts of 10-30mins with shorter higher intensity efforts (were not talking HIIT) 1-5mins at 8/8.5 out of 10 for perceived effort with short rests in-between. This will get the heart pumping harder, the metabolism stoked for burning calories and the sweat and fat melting away.


In conclusion both of these training methods do have some very serious pros and cons. HIIT is very time efficient, challenging and fun, offers fast results and can be done with very little or no equipment, just a pair of trainers. On the flip side it can be unsuitable for those with injuries or who are not bio mechanically sound. The very high intensity can be hard to achieve and may not be suitable for some participants with high blood pressure or on certain medications. Despite HIIT taking only 20mins a full warm up and cool down is essential to prepare the body safely for exercise and to aid recovery and stay injury free.

Steady training is very good at building endurance steadily, open to ALL abilities and ages, can be mixed up to keep the body adapting progressively, good variety of training methods can be used such as swimming, jogging, cycling or cross training. On the flip side though this can be a very time consuming method of training, can often lead to plateau and can lead people to feeling they need to be in a gym environment which they dislike. Steady training also suffers the stigma of being old fashioned.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this, take the media hype with pinch of salt regarding HIIT and an even bigger pinch regarding steady training being out of date.

HIIT is a great training method that delivers real results, but if you are not able to work to the correct intensity then the 20mins you spend working out will not burn as many calories or deliver the results you would get from training steadily for longer. Your body may feel more exhausted from HITT, but this is the body giving up before the cardiovascular system does due to lack of fitness and therefore if you had trained more steadily you would have burnt more calories. HIIT can also leave you very sore if you are not used to training this way. This does of course improve as you become more conditioned but for a beginner this could prevent them from training multiple times in a week slowing overall progress.

Steady state training has been a staple for so long with good reason. This method offers beginners and those returning to exercise a safe way to learn the fundamentals of exercise and build endurance in a manageable less intimidating way. This base fitness is essential for Everyone no matter your age, goal or motivation. Start by build up your fitness with steady training and start to include harder intervals in this familiar environment first, and when you are ready to progress when to HIIT you will feel more confident and ready for the challenge.

Starting HIIIT too soon could easily lead to injury as your body and muscles are trying to do things they are simply not conditioned to do, yet, It may also lead you to think that exercise is too hard altogether. Once you have built this base fitness or if you are already at the stage where you want to give HIIT a go then start small and build up. Mix this training into you other sessions and try to keep good variety of sessions. Use a mix of HIIT and steady/ recovery sessions each week for best results.

By Andy Strong

Fundamentally FIT

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