Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio Training (“LISS”)

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Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio Training (LISS)

Introduction

Cardiovascular training varies in its degree of impact, level of intensity, and duration of exercise. These factors should be weighed before you select a fitness routine. The current condition of your body will help determine the proper type of cardio training for you.

Basically, there are two main types of cardiovascular training you need to know about:

  • Low-intensity steady state cardio (slow prolonged duration cardio training) or “LISS”, which is equivalent to 30-90 minutes of walking or any other form of low-intensity cardio.
  • High intensity interval training (HIIT), which is equivalent to a 30-second sprint (defined as ‘work’), followed by a 30-second walk/jogging (defined as ‘rest’). These ‘work’ and ‘rest’ periods are then repeated for a designated amount of time, usually 10-20 minutes.

Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio Training (“LISS”)

The very first type of cardio training that you might want to consider performing is steady state endurance focused cardio training. Steady state training is also known as continuous or long, slow, distance training. It involves you training at a steady pace over a long distance.

Steady state means that you walk, jog, run, bike, or use a cardio machine for a specified period of time (usually 30 to 90 minutes), and you work out at an even pace. It is a great way to get your heart rate in its fat burning zone and keep it there for a certain period of time.

Target heart-rate zone for low-Intensity steady state cardio training

The intensity of steady-state training should be low to moderate (65-75 percent of maximal heart rate) over a long distance and time. This cardio zone is also well known as “fat-loss zone” or “fat-burning zone“.

Training duration

The primary objective of steady state cardio training is to perform continuous activity that gets the heart rate up and holds it there for a period of time. Most steady state cardio sessions will last anywhere from 30 minutes all the way up to an hour or even more (up to 120 minutes). Due to the level of intensity in this type of cardio training, you are able to train for a considerable time.

LISS works by depleting your muscles and liver of sugar and using fat as a primary energy source. It takes a very long time for sugar depletion to occur, hence the recommended duration above.

Who can specially benefit from this type of cardiovascular training?

Since it doesn’t require as high of a fitness background to perform it and you can easily go at your own pace that’s comfortable for you, it’s a good place to start. As a matter of fact, regardless of your fitness level, devote the first few weeks of exercise to steady-state cardio only. That way you will condition your heart and lungs for higher intensity interval training (HIIT) later in the program.

  • Beginners who are first taking up structured exercise.
  • Athletes recovering from injury.
  • “Special population” athletes – children or elderly people.
  • For those just starting (or restarting) an exercise program. Beginning with HIIT may increase the chance for injury and muscle soreness.

Advantages of Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio

The main advantage of low-intensity steady state cardio is that it burns a lot of fat while sparing glycogen. On the other hand, high intensity interval training (HIIT) produces slightly different effects. While some of the energy comes from fat, most of it is derived from reserves of carbohydrate (glycogen inside the muscle). This is an inefficient way of losing fat. The best way is to burn fat rather than carbohydrate. We can therefore conclude that the main advantage of low-intensity steady state cardio is the main disadvantage of high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Beginners can perform low-intensity steady state cardio and benefit greatly because their bodies don’t require very high intensities to respond and make changes.

Bodybuilders and beginners alike, benefit most from this form of cardio. It is very easy on the joints, muscles and respiratory system. Therefore, bodybuilders can preserve hard earned muscle mass while stimulating their heart rate and burning mainly fat due to the low intensity and long duration of exercise.

If the exercise session was short and very intense (HIIT), the bodybuilder would have to use proteins from muscle for energy to perform the cardio. This works against preserving muscle and reverses the trainee’s results.

Drawbacks of Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio

The main drawback of low-intensity steady state cardio is that it’s more time-consuming because it burns fewer calories per minute in comparison to high intensity interval training (HIIT). Exercising in the higher zone (HIIT zone: 75-90% of MHR) will burn more calories overall for the same amount of time. So the main disadvantage of low-intensity steady state cardio is the main advantage of HIIT.

Low-Intensity Steady State Cardio (LISS) Vs. HIIT

While it’s probably true that exercising at the lower zone will burn more calories in the form of fat, exercising in the higher zone will burn more calories overall for the same amount of time. And since total calorie expenditure is the key to losing fat, theoretically the higher zone should be the best zone. The key word there is “should” as everyone’s body responds differently. The lower zone may work best for you. Our advice is to start out at the lower zone and gradually work into the upper zone and see what happens. If there is a noticeable difference then select the one that works best. If on the other hand both seem to be yielding equal results, then alternate them. You can alternate them on a daily basis (i.e. high, low. high, low, etc), or one month high and the next low.

Closing Thoughts

“Low-intensity steady state cardio or LISS” is cardiovascular exercise at a lower to moderate intensity for a longer duration of time. You would train at approximately 65-75% of your maximum heart rate (so called fat-burning zone) for anywhere between 30 mins – 120 mins in duration. During that time you work out at an even pace – at a constant (non-changing) speed/intensity that keeps your heart rate in the “fat-burning zone”.

Steady state endurance cardio training isn’t all that taxing on the body, so it is a form of cardio that can be done on a regular basis, so don’t let yourself belief that you need extended periods of time off. Therefore, bodybuilders can preserve hard earned muscle mass while stimulating their heart rate and burning mainly fat due to the low intensity and long duration of exercise.

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