Cardio has long been excluded from people's training regimes. Bodybuilders for the most part only chuck it into their routines when it's time to cut. Aside from that, it is usually reserved for, sporting people, athletes or Crossfiters.
One of the main reasons cardio gets such a bad rap is because it has a reputation for killing gains. When you want to gain muscle or strength, there seems no real point doing a type of exercise that takes up time and undoes the hard work you have put in, in the gym gaining strength and muscle. Does there?
But let us take a look at some of the benefits of two types of cardio.
HITT And LISS - What Do They Mean?
Cardio comes in many different forms, but let us make it easy by looking at two different types, from opposite ends of the scale. The first is known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT). An example of HIIT is doing something all out (as fast or as hard as you can) for 15-40 seconds and then having an active cooldown period of anywhere between. This could be anything from sprinting for 20 seconds or intervals on a rowing machine. Further examples of HIIT are things like pushing a car or a prowler or even doing all out intervals on a stationary bike.
The other type of cardio we are going to discuss is; low-intensity steady state (LISS). LISS is characterised as simply performing low-intensity cardio at a consistent pace or 'state' for a period of time. This could be simply going for a run, a ride or walking on the treadmill on an incline for 40-60 minutes.
Pros And Cons Of HIIT
The are multiple benefits to doing HIIT over LISS. For starters, HIIT uses different energy systems primarily, that are more conducive to muscle growth. HIIT replicates and uses the energy systems that you would use when lifting weights and may even stimulate muscle growth, as opposed to LISS. For anecdotal evidence of this, just look at sprinters vs. long distance runners.
Furthermore, HIIT is much more efficient for fat-loss, meaning you can burn the same amount of fat in a shorter amount of time.
Let us take a look at the simple list of what the pros and cons of HIIT are.
- Superior for muscle retention and muscle growth.
- More efficient for fat loss, this is due to what is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) - which means calories are burned after you've exercised.
- It's time efficient. Not only is it more efficient for fat-loss, but you can get more work done in a shorter time period. For example, 15 minutes of HIIT can be equivalent to 40-60 minutes of LISS.
- There are certain metabolic adaptations that your body makes when you do HIIT that make it burn fat as fuel more efficiently.
- It's less boring. LISS can be incredibly mind numbing, simply walking on a treadmill for an hour isn't exhilarating.
- Due to the intensity, HIIT can impact your ability to recover from heavy weight training sessions, and it's a lot more taxing on your central nervous system.
- It impacts your training program to a greater degree. For example, a solid HIIT session can be like a leg workout in some instances. Training legs the day after doing HIIT would be a mistake.
- It's hard. To get the most out of HIIT, you have to be prepared to push yourself; it's not like getting on a bike and ticking the legs over. It requires a lot more of a mental commitment.
- There is a limit to the number of times you can perform HIIT in a given week. If you are doing weights as well, 2-3 is about the maximum.
Pros And Cons of LISS:
While HIIT has some advantages over LISS, it's not to say the LISS doesn't have its place in your routine. LISS burns calories while you are performing it and brings its own advantages over HIIT.
Here is a summary of the pros and cons.
- Due to the intensity being lower, LISS won't impact your recovery and performance as much as HIIT.
- Furthermore, as LISS has a lower impact on recovery and won't affect performance as much, it can be performed with greater frequency than HIIT - even daily.
- As LISS is low intensity at the same pace, it can be boring, simply sitting inside on an exercise bike for 40 minutes for example.
- There is a greater time commitment associated with LISS as you will need to perform 40-60 minutes of it. This can be a massive problem, especially if you have just done a weight session for an hour.
- LISS has a greater potential for causing muscle loss, especially if you start driving up the intensity. So make sure you keep it low-intensity.
- You quickly adapt to LISS and become more efficient. This means that you have to increase the duration to get the same results as before.
Putting It All Together
If you want to start incorporating cardio into your routine, a combination of LISS and HIIT is best. While HIIT is a much more conducive form of cardio for growing and maintaining muscle, it can affect your recovery and performance in the weight room negatively if done too much. HIIT should be done sparingly and considerations should be made on your programming - for example, you should do a big HIIT sprint session the day before heavy squats.
LISS can be used with much more frequency and won't impact your training performance and recovery like HIIT.