Living in Los Angeles we have a few options of how we navigate our way home after work. Our number one goal is to get home faster. We Either add more miles to our trip to avoid traffic jams on the freeway or we take the shortest way home which is the most direct route even if it means we hit traffic which could mean more wear and tear on your car and burns more gas. Which is a more effective strategy...sitting in traffic on the freeway with less miles, or add more miles to avoid sitting at a stand still.
Imagine Steady-State Training (SST) as taking the extra miles on the surface streets home. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the more stressful option of taking the more direct route burning gas faster. Both options can be extremely effective. Is one form of training better than the other?
Like all fitness questions there are variety of factors that play into the answer of which one is better for you. Which one you choose, depends on your personal preference and your own goals. I've listed the features, advantages, and disadvantages of both SST and HIIT.
Steady-State Training (SST)
A workout that is continuous, steady effort, and sustained for an extended time (usually starting at 15-20 minutes for beginners and 20-90 minutes for more fit athletes). During steady state you are maintaining a consistent speed, level of intensity and work rate during an exercise session.
Less physical stress on cardio-respiratory system
Effective way to prepare for an endurance event (like a marathon)
Improves cardio-respiratory fitness and enhances aerobic capacity
Increases slow-twitch muscle fibers
Increases cardiac efficiency
Enhances ability to use fat as an efficient fuel sources, which reserves muscle glycogen to be used for higher intensity exercise
Improves aerobic efficiency and generates less metabolic waste and cellular damage than HIIT workouts.
If you want to lose weight, steady-state training might require more time to achieve your goal
Requires much more time and may be challenging for a busy lifestyle
Extended periods of time exercising can increase risk of repetitive stress injuries
May be difficult for some to maintain focus necessary to train at a constant work rate
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is short intervals of extremely high-intensity exercises. Usually involving a lot of muscle mass and require a lot of oxygen, during both the work interval and the recovery periods.
HIIT can be effective for improving aerobic capacity
Torch some serious calories
Very efficient and good for busy schedules
Can improve efficiency in muscle fibers and produce more energy
Works fast-twitched muscles
Can stimulate production of muscle building and fat burning hormones
Effective for those who become easily distracted or bored with working out
HIIT could increase soreness
Accumulation of metabolic stress limits muscles ability to function
Increase of muscle strain
High exercise intensities require more aerobic conditioning and may be uncomfortable or painful for some
Extended period of time of HIIT could deplete glycogen and start converting protein to glycogen. Which results in a loss of protein available to repair muscle tissue and damage by exercise.
The best workout program is the one that is done on a regular basis. Regardless of which program you choose consistency is key to seeing results. Don't forget to change up your workouts so you don't become complacent!