Should you be performing HIIT or LISS cardio? Which one works better for burning fat? Join the discussion in this month's edition of Training Talk!

In previous editions of our Training Talk series, we’ve covered different training methods and how to train certain body parts.

For this month’s edition, we’re going to tackle an aspect of training that may not be as glamorous as clanging and banging with the iron but is just as important if you want a complete physique.

It’s time to talk cardio.

I’m sure many of you out there are familiar with how this works by now but I’d like to cover how this goes for anyone new to M&S (and if you are one of those folks, welcome.)

A topic is chosen every month. We present the most popular opposing viewpoints on said topic. Then it’s your turn to join our discussion.

This column has become so successful because it’s based on you, the M&S community taking part and sharing your insight so readers can benefit from your experience and knowledge. So once you finish reading this edition, scroll down to the bottom and share your thoughts.

This isn’t an offer. It’s a request. We hope you’ll consider joining us.

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Talking Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise is essential for any training program to be successful. While the main purpose for many athletes is to help burn bodyfat and increase definition in their physiques, the benefits are more for the inside of your body than the outside.

Cardio helps improve your heart health obviously but it can also help enhance your respiratory system. Aerobic exercise requires you to take in more oxygen and challenges you to work on controlling your breathing.

Related: Training Talk - Do You Really Need to Squat?

Cardio can also help you improve recovery post exercise because it will help increase your heart rate so that blood is transported throughout the body to the muscles. Furthermore, cardio can help you reduce stress levels and support your skeletal system. And yes, as I mentioned earlier, it can help you get ripped.

Slow and Steady

There are different versions of cardiovascular training. The first is Low Intensity Steady State (LISS). This form of training calls for athletes to perform their cardio at a steady and consistent rate throughout the duration of the workout.

If you were to perform a LISS program, you wouldn’t want to perform at more than a 65%-70% effort from start to finish. Many of the champions of the Golden Era of bodybuilding followed a LISS style cardio program and there are those who advocate for it even today.

LISS cardio is pretty basic and you can perform it anywhere. Walking in your neighborhood or on a treadmill for 30-60 minutes can be a form of this type of cardio.

M&S Female Athlete Performing LISS Cardio

Why People Like LISS

There are several reasons why advocates and trainers step up and speak out for LISS training. They will tell you that it helps them maintain muscle mass, it’s easier to recover from, and it can even help them recover from their weight training if done after their sets are over.

It’s easier to commit to because it’s less taxing on the body, and since many forms of LISS are functional, it can help enhance overall fitness including aerobic fitness. Finally, you can perform LISS cardio anywhere so you have more options to do it.

Why Others Say No to Slow

Of course there are detractors and critics of LISS style cardio and they’re not shy about sharing why they feel this way either. Opponents of LISS feel that to get any significant fat loss out of it requires longer sessions which can be tough to commit to if you have a busy schedule.

They also feel it’s boring and repetitive so it can be tougher to get motivated to do it. You also don’t burn any serious amounts of calories unless you perform it for a long time. Another barrier for motivation is that there isn’t much of a challenge involved in LISS.

Related: Training Talk - Deadlift on Leg Day or Back Day?

Let’s HIIT It

Now we’re going to cover the opposite end of the cardio spectrum. High Intensity Interval Training is the exact opposite of LISS. Whereas LISS is a steady pace from start to finish, HIIT workouts require you to alternate between periods of low intensity and shorter periods of all-out effort.

The purpose is to keep your body guessing so it doesn’t adapt to one level or the other. As a result, the body will burn more calories to provide energy. HIIT has been around for a while as well but has only really taken off in popularity within the last couple of decades. An example of a HIIT routine would be alternating 2 minute jogs with 20-30 second sprints.

High on HIIT

There are several reasons why many athletes and coaches prefer HIIT training. Aside from their belief that it’s superior in burning calories, they feel HIIT is better because sessions are generally shorter than the cardio counterpart so they can get it in without fear of messing up their schedules.

They also find that it’s easier to get and stay motivated for. You also have likely seen people do HIIT because of the creative ways they can make workouts happen like with a heavy bag, battle ropes, or circuit training.

Athlete performing HIIT cardio with battle ropes

Those That Say No

If everybody agreed on all topics, life would be pretty boring and I wouldn’t be able to write this column every month. There are those other athletes and experts who feel that HIIT isn’t as great as it’s all cracked up to be.

Critics feel that beginners shouldn’t do HIIT at all because their fitness levels won’t support that effort. There are also the perceived increase in the possibility of getting hurt and no one gets ripped while sitting at the house while they’re injured. They also feel that you may be subject to overtraining if you perform HIIT on a regular basis.

Tabata Training

One of the most popular versions of HIIT that has taken the fitness world by storm in recent years is Tabata which is named after the man who studied it in Japan, Dr. Isuzu Tabata. In short, it’s a four minute HIIT session. Yep. 4!

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These sessions include 20 second phases of all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of complete rest. You repeat this pattern eight times. The key to Tabata is that during those 20 second periods you truly give it everything you got. If you don’t it won’t be as effective.

Best of Both Worlds

Not everyone is on one side of the fence or the other when it comes to this topic. There are those who choose to sit right on the fence because they see the best of both worlds.

Some bodybuilders and other athletes will do LISS on days that they take on the weights and will save HIIT for their off days from the gym so they can maintain healthy fat loss.

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What Do You Say?

That’s enough talking from us. This is about what you think. So here are this month’s questions that we’d like for you to answer.

“Which type of cardio do you prefer? LISS, HIIT, or both?”

“Why do you like that choice?”

Share your answers below in the comment section and feel free to add anything else you’d like to share.

One more thing.

Once you share your thoughts with us, I hope you’ll consider sharing this on your various social media pages and inviting your friends to join us every month for a new edition of Training Talk.

You can also look back at previous features where we discusses topics like arm training, squats, and more. Make sure you give us your opinion on these topics as well.

Posted on: Mon, 05/06/2019 - 22:17

I'm 66 yr old retired officer and have used HIIT to drop weight and reduce belly fat, it is taxing after my weight lifting day, because I do whole body, Monday, Wednesday and Friday and try my best to do cardio on my off days, but I think I'm switching to LISS and my lift days and HIIT on my off days. Thanks for that info, just in time for summer.

Posted on: Sun, 09/17/2017 - 07:38

I pick LISS for me! Its quite simple why! You cant ask me do HIIT, after a workout where I did about 8-10 exercises of 5 sets each, heavy weight and high reps! I am done pretty much after this, I sweat non stop and my legs are shaking...

I think HIIT is pretty much for off days and for people who lift lightly...

John Cruise
Posted on: Tue, 07/11/2017 - 07:17

Hi, I am 35 years old and I like cardio. Initially I was 75 kg but when I started to hit cardio I lose My huge weight basically I am doing to all these practice for my Athelitcs purpose. I want to get slimmer so that I could do my best to my athletics competition. I would like to wish you, thank you very much for posting this kind of awesome blog and I hope so you will continue this.

Roger Rock Lockridge
Posted on: Tue, 07/11/2017 - 11:30

John, thank you for the comment and for reading. Feel free to let us know what other topics you would like for us to discuss in future editions. Training Talk comes out once a month and there will be another one next month. Make sure you share this with your friends on your social pages as well.

Posted on: Sun, 07/09/2017 - 10:26

I am 75 years old and have been lifting for 35 years. Until my mid 50s I didn't need to do much cardio, my workouts were enough to maintain my body fat. Then things changed. I found tabata and that worked great until arthritis crippled my shoulders. I tried power walking 5ks and that worked well but took too much time. Hi it is the best for me. I use to compete in 5ks and at higher intensity at the gym for 18-21 minute cycles. Great end to a workout.

Roger Rock Lockridge
Posted on: Tue, 07/11/2017 - 11:31

Joe, I'm inspired by your comment. 75 years old and still doing this wonderful thing we call fitness. My hat's off to you, sir. Thanks for sharing your feedback.