HIIT vs Strength Training

Should you be doing HIIT or strength training?  Why not both?  First of all, it is important to understand that these training styles are not in the same category.  HIIT is a form of cardiovascular training.  HIIT stands for high intensity interval training and it is implemented by alternating between high and low intensities such as sprints and jogs.  Strength training is most commonly implementing in a weight or resistance training regiment.  You will not be able to achieve a heavy squat, bench, or deadlift by HIIT alone.  Nor will you be able to have a dense muscular physique.  HIIT is mainly implemented for fat loss and cardiovascular health.  While you can manipulate the diet to keep fat at bay, it will be difficult to continually strength train without a couple intense cardio sessions and still maintain low body fat while improving strength.  It is not impossible to do, but it’s generally more difficult to increase strength while in a caloric deficit or on a low calorie diet.

HIIT will not produce the same results as strength training just like strength training will not provide the same results as HIIT.  You can receive cardiovascular benefits from strength training, they are no way comparable to the cardiovascular benefits from HIIT.  While there are many variables and strategies that go into strength training, it is most often a lower intensity training style when compared to HIIT.  The majority of your strength training regiment will be moving heavy weight for low repetitions with anywhere from two to five minute rest periods.  This training method is taxing and difficult, but in general, your heart rate will not get or stay very high while strength training.

So it’s now understood that they are different but that are best used in conjunction.  What is the best way to do this?  There are many ways to implement both strategies and it will depend on your goals and training preferences.  You know your body better than anyone else does, try some things out and see what works best.  That being said, let’s talk about some good places to start.  Even though true HIIT sessions should only last up to twenty minutes, they still need to be addressed like a full blown workout.  This isn’t so much taxation on the muscles, but on your energy stores and central nervous system.  In most cases, especially with low volume strength training, your best bet will be throwing in HIIT sessions about two times per week following your weight training session.  So you’d hit the weights, and then hop on the treadmill (not all HIIT has to be done on the treadmill).  If strength training is your goal, it’s not recommended to do your HIIT before the weights because your energy will be extremely depleted.

You’re welcome to do HIIT sessions on non-weight training days but make sure you have one to two days completely off from taxing physical activity to ensure maximal recovery.  It will depend on your weight training program, but be careful plugging in HIIT sessions around your squat and deadlift days.  For example, if Wednesday is your off day, and you’re scheduled to do squats on Thursday, it might not be in your best interest to do intense hill sprints on Wednesday.  Either do them on Tuesday, or after you squat on Thursday or the following days.