What is Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) Training?

Everyone is always talking about HIIT – high intensity interval training workouts – that we forget about an equally important aspect of any good workout routine: LISS

Here comes another acronym! LISS stands for low intensity steady state training, and if it’s not a part of your weekly programming, it should be.

You might guess that LISS is the complete opposite of HIIT. Instead of pushing yourself to the limits of your cardio capacity, you focus on low levels of exertion for long periods of time.

Trying to determine which one is best for you depends a lot on your personal fitness goals.

Two people in the gym doing low intensity cardio

Let’s unpack LISS and how it can be useful and offer some examples of how to integrate it into your overall wellness plan.

What is LISS Cardio?

The acronym might be new, but the exercises involve are anything but. LISS is a low-intensity training approach. You might know it as steady state training or continuous cardio or even long, slow distance training.

When you’re working through a LISS training session, the goal is to heel your heart rate low and steady.

What are the Benefits?

  • Keeps things fresh. If you’re tired of the all-out push of HIIT, it might be time to give LISS a try. Liss is a great cardio option to add to any training approach, no matter if you’re a functional athlete or your working toward powerlifting or bodybuilding goals.
  • It’s very accessible. LISS is free and easy. You don’t need to go to a gym to do it, and LISS workouts are a great segue into a longer-lasting approach to overall fitness.
  • Suitable for all levels. Even better, LISS can help you build your fitness levels. Low intensity cardio doesn’t put a lot of strain on your body, so it can be done several times a week. That makes it easier to stick with, especially on days of the week when you’re not up for a high-paced workout.
  • Presents injury and easy training for endurance events. Steady state cardio is great for beginners because it can help prevent injury that might happen with HITT workouts. Just as important, you’re going to be building overall strength and stamina – two critical components to moving into HIIT routines.
  • Great active recovery. If you’re a frequent gym-goer and need a new option for active recovery days, LISS is your best option. Low-intensity cardio means that your body is going to be able to recover from whatever else you’ve done during the week without further damage to your muscles.

All of these are great benefits, but the number one reason you should be incorporating LISS into your training is that it can help you burn fat.

Yes, HIIT training can indeed give you an after-burn effect that keeps your metabolism revved. But, as steady state cardio, lower intensity training means you’re working for longer periods of time. LISS gives your body more oxygen during the duration of your workout. Fat needs oxygen to be broken down, so the more you can give it, the more fat you might be able to burn.

One thing to keep in mind is that LISS can be, well, boring. It’s a long workout that’s performed at a moderate pace, so if you’re used to the high-energy of a HIIT workout, it might feel like a chore.

The easiest way to combat this is to switch up your training – do a few days of HIIT metcons followed by a few days if LISS. You might find the approach is more enjoyable. Best of all, you’ll be keeping your body in a steady state of revved metabolism, which is always a good thing.

Is LISS more effective than HIIT?

You’re only doing a HIIT workout if you’re working at 80% of your max heart rate. Movements are built on going hard for a specific amount of time and then resting so your heart can recover.

When you’re doing a LISS workout, you’re aiming for a 65% heart rate to help you reach your personal fat-burning zone.

Let’s unpack that. Cardio exercise includes anything that increases your heart rate. Whether you’re moving fast or you’re moving less fast, your heart and circulatory system is working. The body has three different energy systems, all of which are important when exploring the differences between HIIT and LISS.

Phosphagen system – During the first ten seconds of any movement, the phosphagen system is activated. It’s useful for intense, short spurts of exercise, like HIIT. To create energy, the body uses creatine, phosphates, and ATP. This system is beneficial for power-based athletes, like sprinters.

Anaerobic system – The body uses this energy system for short bursts of exercise that lasts up to 2 minutes. When you’re really in a HIIT zone, the anaerobic system is activated, and your body is using stored glycogen. No oxygen is used in the energy transfer process. HIIT is an excellent way to get stronger faster and helps boost your metabolism. To figure out if you’re pushing hard enough to be in a HIIT zone, see if you can talk while performing the movements of your workout. If you can’t speak, you’re right where you need to be.

Anaerobic training helps preserve muscle mass. HIIT workouts have an after-burn effect, which means it takes the body several hours to return to a balanced state. In turn, your metabolism might be boosted for longer periods. As the name suggests, HIIT is very intense and is best when incorporated only a few times a week.

Aerobic system – Once the body has been moving for more than two minutes, the aerobic system begins to work. This means that your body begins pulling oxygen for energy and transferring it to the muscles that are working. LISS will help develop a stronger heart, better overall cardio health, and better blood flow.

But, as with all things fitness, the body becomes very adapted to this kind of training. Only doing LISS can be counterproductive to your goals, so the best approach is to incorporate both LISS and HIT training into your fitness plan.

Which One Is Better for Me?

LISS is suitable for every fitness level. As long as you have the time available, it’s easy to incorporate into your current programming.

If you’re training for a long-distance event like a half marathon or a cycling race, LISS is going to be your go-to for active recovery days.

It’s also useful if you’re coming back to a wellness approach after some time away.

HIIT is a great choice if you’re short on time and need a quick workout. Both styles will ultimately achieve the same results – better endurance and greater fitness levels, so it really comes down to personal preference. Many athletes enjoy switching things up every so often, so you might consider doing that as well.

If you’re concerned that LISS is going to be too dull for you, it’s easy to integrate technology to make the time go by faster. Listening to a podcast, learning something, or even catching up on your favourite shows makes the long steadiness of the movement seem less like a chore and more enjoyable.

Examples of LISS Cardio

You don’t need to belong to a gym to find ways to incorporate LISS into your training. But if you do belong to a gym and have access to a treadmill, cross trainer / elliptical, rower, exercise bike or fan bike, LISS is easy to add to your fitness routine. Just hop on one of the cardio machines and move in a steady state for an extended period of time.

But, if you don’t belong to a gym or the idea of walking on a treadmill for forty five minutes seems ridiculous, there are plenty of other LISS options that aren’t machine-based.
Try having a walking coffee with your pals. Walking is one of the best forms of LISS, and if you’re with friends, the time goes faster.

Cleaning might not sound like the most fun, but it is when you consider that it’s actually a form of LISS. The key is keeping up the intensity while you’re moving around your space. The result will be a cleaner flat, and you’ll be closer to your exercise goals.

Climbing stairs either on a machine or manually is an easy way to incorporate more LISS into your training and help you build leg muscles at the same time.

Conclusion

The best workout is the one that positions you one step closer to your fitness goals. When you need the motivation to keep moving, consider switching up your training approach. LISS is an excellent choice for those active recovery days when you need to move but also need to rest your muscles and your body.

LISS workouts are longer than HIIT, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less effective. Steady state cardio is perfect for anyone who wants to train for an endurance event or to help integrate more fitness into your life.

Leave a comment