THE BLOG
01/30/2015 04:47 pm ET Updated Apr 01, 2015

What's the Best Form of Cardio?

A common question I'm asked on a weekly basis is:

"Should I be doing H.I.I.T., medium intensity, or the good old steady-state cardio?"

Let's first be clear and differentiate between the three.

H.I.I.T
This style training has become huge in the community within the last decade. H.I.I.T. is short for high intensity interval training, and it is when you perform a form of exercise (such as a sprint) for a short all-out burst. In my opinion the burst should be anywhere from 5-20 seconds. I find very few individuals are able to perform 100 percent effort beyond that period of time and still be able to repeat the work with adequate technique. This is pretty much an all-out sprint effort, so you should be going hard.

Medium Intensity
This should be a fairly difficult pace held for intervals of any where around 30 seconds to as high as several minutes. It's a pace too difficult to hold for 30 minutes non-stop but can be broken into intervals such as:

30 sec on / 30 sec off
1 min on / 1 min off
3 min on / 3 min off

I can give hundreds of examples, but I think you get my point.

Steady-State Cardio
Then we have steady state cardio. For my clients, this will begin at around 30 minutes and may go as long as an ultra-marathon.

Okay, So Which is the Most Effective?
All three forms have gotten good and bad raps, but the answer is very simple. Unless you are using a program to measure readiness, I would recommend rotating the three.

How To Effectively Rotate Cardio Styles

You can determine which cardio style to engage in by measuring the following factors:

1. How are you feeling that day?
2. What is your heart rate first thing in the morning?

Try this. Begin checking your heart rate before you even get out of bed. (If you use an alarm to get up, give it a few moments after your alarm goes off as this will elevate your heart rate.) To manually find your heart rate, locate your pulse and count how many beats happen in fifteen seconds. Multiply that number by four. If your heart rate is roughly around 55 every morning, but then one morning jumps to the 60s, I would not recommend doing any H.I.I.T style training as your nervous system could be telling you something.

Or simply rotate cardio styles from workout to workout. Do a H.I.I.T workout on a Monday, medium state on a Tuesday, followed by a steady state for the next workout. This 2:1 interval to steady state ratio is effective for a few reasons:

1. It gets you training in all different heart rate ranges
2. It allows for a better recovery process
3. It adds a level of excitement and eliminates monotony (because, at the end of the day, too much of anything is no good!)

So call an audible to the plan. Play around with H.I.I.T., medium intensity and steady state. Remember to measure heart rate first thing in the morning and during the workout. Switch things up and maximize your results because -- when all is said and done -- working out is much more fun when you're seeing improvement.

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