By now most of you would have already heard plenty about high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and its benefits; fat loss, metabolic adaptations, and overall power and speed development are just some of the perks. However, in the wake of the HIIT renaissance, its drab-by-comparison sibling lags behind.
We are, of course, talking about low-intensity steady-state (LISS) training. LISS work is described as physical exertion of a mild intensity (50-60%) lasting for a moderate to prolonged period of time, such as a jog lasting for about 30 minutes. It may sound boring to some, but it definitely has its place in the fitness toolbox.
Now, LISS training was the absolute rage during the 80s. Who could forget Richard Simmons and his colourful outfits, cheerily shouting, “I believe in you!” At the time, LISS workouts were the go-to method for fat loss. Several studies showed that the calories burned while doing aerobic training were predominantly from fat stores. The biggest drawback however, is that the calorie-burning halted the second the person stopped exercising, whereas with HIIT, it persisted.
A complementary feature
So why would I say that LISS workouts are still relevant? For starters, you wouldn't want to be the kind of person who can rock the free weights but gets gassed after climbing two flights of stairs, would you? On a more practical note, it makes sense to develop yourself in a balanced fashion; be both strong and durable. Another good reason to consider swapping out your HIIT session for LISS ones instead is that it might allow for better recovery. Since weight training is technically considered HIIT, performing too many concurrent sessions of work with a similar demand may very well eat into your overall performance.
LISS training does confer some direct benefits to your strength training, namely those of a cardiovascular nature. Endurance training strengthens the heart and respiratory system by forcing to adapt to be more effective under prolonged duress. A stronger heart would therefore be able to perform more work while supporting increased blood flow to muscles tissue as well as oxygen exchange capacity, which aids in recovery. Studies have also shown that aerobic training can result in increases of pain tolerance, which could allow athletes to push harder during higher-intensity training sessions.
Another great benefit of LISS workouts is that it allows newbies to ease into the fitness game. Not everyone may be comfortable with the idea of suddenly starting out with 10 rounds of all-out sprint work, even with all the scientific literature supporting it. Having the choice to start off nice and easy is a good way to get people to embrace the idea of an active lifestyle.
As with all forms of training, it's important to practise moderation; 30 minutes per session is plenty enough. Unless you're training for a marathon, then of course that's a different story. In other words, don't be so quick to write off LISS training as useless. If you're already engaged in a regular weight-training regimen, consider adding some days of light aerobic work in between. It's a great way to keep your heart happy while staving off unwanted fat gain.
- Clark, M. A., Sutton, B. G. & Lucett, S. C. (2014), “Chapter 8 – Cardiorespiratory Fitness Training”, NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training (4th ed.), Jones & Bartlett Learning
- Jones, M. D., Booth, J., Tayor, J. L. & Barry, B. K. (2014), “Aerobic training increases pain tolerance in healthy individuals”, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(8), 1640-1647