Should you be doing weight training, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or low intensity cardio to reach your goals?

OK, so you want to get in shape, but things can get a little bit confusing with all the information out there for people these days. On one hand we have the “shut up and lift” crowd saying that everyone should just weights.

On the other hand you have those drinking from the HIIT koolade… and then we have the cardio bunnies just happy to do the treadmill or the stationary bike for an hour every day.

So who’s right? I am going to do my best to give you my opinion and clear up a lot of your (exercise related) confusion today.

OK so lets start with with your goals. I’m provide info in this article as though you have the same goals as 99% of people – To lose body fat, get toned as well as improve your level of general fitness. Basically to feel better, and to look better naked, because when it all comes down to it, that’s all most of us really want.

So lets start with weights.

Straight up I believe that humans (above 15 years old) should ALL be doing some kind of weight training, especially strength training.

PROS – The benefits of strength training will include improving bone density lessening your chance of breaking your hip from a fall off of your rocking chair, make everything in your life physically easier, and also improve your sense of self worth when you crush your squat goals.

If we want to keep our muscle tone when we lose weight then we need to be doing resistance training.

CONS – If you don’t know what you are doing it can be hazardous or ineffective.

VERDICT – Weight training is in, but seek the advice of someone who knows what they are doing to show you the ropes.

OK now lets move onto HIIT training.

HIIT training can be done in the form of sprinting outside, on a rower, on a stationary bike, on a treadmill, or by using a sled or prowler. It doesn’t really matter how you get it done as long as you use the required amount of effort. An example would be intervals of

15 seconds on (100% effort)
45 seconds off (recovery)
Repeat 10-20 times. Your variables here are the ratio of time on and time off, as well as the number of intervals. These variables will depend on your fitness level.

This kind of training is highly effective at producing killer weight loss results. But not without it’s downsides.

PROS – This kind of training is very time efficient. You can get better results with 20 minutes of this training than 60 minutes walking on a treadmill.

HIIT not only utilises the immediate calorie burn, which happens during the session, but also the ‘afterburn’ effect where you will continue to chew through those Tim Tams which are now on your thighs for up to 48hrs after you stop training.

This is due to the massive metabolic disturbance caused, and also the hormonal effect of this kind of training.

This kind of training is also extremely effective at improving cardiovascular fitness.

CONS – If you have a low level of fitness you will most likely not be able to put in the required effort to capitalise on the full benefits. Also important to note that this kind of training when done properly is brutal to put it plain and simply.

If overdone, especially on a large calorie deficit, then this type of training will cause you problems. Some people (like my old self) will think that when something is good, more must be better, not the case for this one.

VERDICT – HIIT is in. If you like your lungs to be on fire and your legs then this is for you.

In all seriousness, this is a highly effective way to train but LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. It has it’s place but if you are dieting aggressively and using HIIT six days a week then things will eventually go pear shaped.

Last in line is low intensity cardio.

This is the kind of exercise you see most people doing, either jogging, cycling, leaning back on the recumbent bike in the gym reading your New Idea magazine, or on the treadmill watching the news.

PROS – Relatively easy, and you can catch up with what Sophie Vergera is doing these days at the same time as you work off a little bit of that Chai Latte you have every morning on the way to work.

Suitable for all levels of fitness.

CONS – Not the most effective use of your time to burn calories.

VERDICT – Low intensity cardio is in. Good to be used on your days off high intensity training and to give your body a rest.

So hold on, how can weight training, HIIT and low intensity cardio all be in? That’s because they all have their place.

HIIT might be more effective than low intensity cardio and strength training at burning fat in less time but it doesn’t mean we should just do HIIT every day. You’ll burn out.

And just because strength training has a lot of benefits doesn’t mean you are going to get the best results just doing weights.

And if you do solely low intensity cardio when losing weight you will also lose a lot of your lean muscle mass in the process, making you look just plain skinny, and not toned at the end.

The truth is (in my opinion) you should be doing all three types of training. They all burn calories, and get your body moving.

Do strength training and weights to keep your muscle mass when dieting as well as give you something to focus on and not just the number on the scales, do one or a couple high intensity days to crank up your fitness levels and burn fat as well as for something different and challenging, but also do some low to moderate intensity cardio to have as general fitness and for recovery from the other harder workouts.

This is why at URT my PT clients get in 2-3 sessions of weights a week, a day of HIIT style training and then 1-2 sessions of bootcamp which covers all bases of a well rounded fitness program in my opinion.

At the end of the day you need to do what you enjoy. If you like doing bootcamp a few days a week for the fun because you enjoy things like cardio boxing then go for it. If you like doing strength training then do more of that. If you like pushing yourself then do more HIIT.

It’s all up to you, do what you enjoy as long as you are regularly active.

If you feel like you are struggling with your health or fitness, I’m always available to have a chat free of charge.

I like helping those who want to help themselves so that’s why no matter how busy I am, I make the effort to get back to any messages or requests to meet up for a chat.

If you want to get in touch feel free to click the link below and fill out the form for a free strategy session where we can find out what’s holding you back from you getting the results you want.