We've all read a billion articles on the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT). Let’s not forget, I've written a bunch of them! I'm a huge advocate for HIIT training and as much as I bad mouth steady-state cardio, I’m going to let you in on a secret...slow, steady-state cardio ACTUALLY does has some advantages for fat loss.
So let me fill you in today on the who, why, when, and how much steady-state cardio you should consider adding to your training routine.
Who is Steady State Cardio for?
Slower, steady-state cardio is great for beginners who may not have the endurance, speed, experience, or mobility to do HIIT cardio. It's also great for fitness and bikini competitors whose primary concern is building muscle while reducing body fat. Many competitors prefer walking on a treadmill for their cardio training to avoid any muscle loss. Pregnant and Postpartum women can also benefit from doing steady-state cardio instead of HIIT.
Why Should You Add In Steady State Cardio?
Recovery. While weight training and HIIT are fantastic, they can negatively impact your recovery. Both create muscle damage and DOMS, and while this is generally a sign of improvements in your shape and fat loss, unfortunately you can’t run yourself into the ground every single training day. A steady state session however, will likely have the opposite effect – it will actually enhance recovery. By getting more blood to the muscles, loosening up your joints, and increasing heart rate, you give your body a chance to recover, while still burning calories and boosting your fitness levels.
Fat Loss. Steady state cardio can be critical during a fat loss phase. There’s only a certain amount of calories you can cut before you start to feel like you just can’t function anymore, and only a certain amount of weight training and HIIT you can do before you run the risk of injury and over-training. This is where SS cardio steps in, to help you burn extra calories and increase your deficit (ie. speed up fat loss) without making you even hungrier, or causing your performance and energy to drop.
When Should you Add in Steady State?
The best time to add steady cardio into your program is when you hit a fat loss roadblock/plateau. If you feel you’ve been consistently hitting your numbers, killing your workouts for a few of weeks (MORE THAN 3 LADIES!) with no progress – no change on the scale, with your measurements, or with progress photos – it might be time to introduce some steady state cardio.
If your calories are still on the high side, and you’re feeling extra full, then cutting calories is probably a better option for increasing your deficit. If you’re only training two or three times a week, then an extra lifting session would be the answer. If you’re currently doing no cardio, then HIIT would make more sense.
How Much Steady State Should I do?
Simple Answer – as little as possible! Start by adding ONE 30 to 45 minute session per week, and adjust as needed. Like macronutrient intake and weight training, steady state cardio is a tool that you can use to accelerate progress.
PLEASE REMEMBER, There’s no need to add ANY steady state cardio if your progress is ticking along smoothly, but it can be a useful weapon in burning stubborn fat. Steady state cardio may not be as effective as pumping iron or going for some all-out hill sprints, but it can certainly have a place in your routine.
I hope this info is helpful when you consider making some changes to your training! ~Sarah