Steady-State Cardio vs. High-Intensity Interval Training

BALANCE in fitness programming is a topic that is very important to me. Here’s a great article that’s worth a read on HIIT vs. steady-state cardiovascular training. It’s fairly long but definitely put this article on your must-read list and bookmark it for future reference.

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is all the rage these days—and there are definite benefits that can’t be denied. But sometimes the benefits of HIIT are exaggerated while the benefits of steady-state cardio are minimized, with some even suggesting that steady-state cardio is somehow bad for you.

The truth is, both HIIT and steady-state have benefits, and they benefit you in different ways. Too much of one or the other can lead to plateaus in fitness and/or increase your risk of injury. Try incorporating some of each into your fitness routine to maximize your results and to increase variety.

How much of each to incorporate in your training will vary depending on your riders’ level of fitness and their personal fitness goals. This is why it is important that you offer a balance in your own classes. 

ICA members can access the follow-up article to this one called Understanding the HIIT Hype. It takes a deeper a look at some of the hype surrounding HIIT, especially the concept of EPOC. As fitness professionals, it’s important for us to understand the science behind the hype, and to use that science to help our customers and clients safely and effectively reach their goals. The article includes tips for effectively incorporating interval sets into your ride profiles.


  1. Jennifer, I’m happy you will be contributing. I’ve noted your outstanding comments for some time. Welcome aboard!

    1. You do realize that this is Jennifer’s site, right?

      1. Nevermind…I see that the Jennifer S. your are welcoming is Jennifer Snow…not Jennifer Sage!

    2. Author

      Thanks Bill! Looking forward to contributing!! 🙂

  2. ……and a Heads-Up!! for Jennifer S. Just for the heck of it, I checked for orangetheory start-ups in my soon-to-be neck o’ the woods. Blimey, they’re springing up around Denver like a dose of The Pox!! Hasn’t infected Golden yet……but maybe it’s only a matter of time.

    Hopefully Jennifer S. A. will keep us on our toes with this one

  3. Excellent topic, Jennifer…….and very timely as far as I’m concerned. Don’t know whether it’s happening in anyone else’s neck o’ the woods, but there are a few branches of this franchise opening up and being hyped around here..
    For anyone who’s in the dark, check out the “about the workout” section and read their *philosophy* (hey, it almost rhymes with physiology) and *what our members say* to see what intelligent training practices are up against.

    I’m actually putting a few classes together to illustrate the false prophesy behind all this based on an excellent workshop that Keli Roberts delivered at the recent Boston Mania…..All the HIITs and Myths (if only I had power 🙁 )

    1. I love Kelli Roberts! Would love to hear more about her session….

      1. The basis of it was nothing more than you can read on this site. A bit of the physiology of HIIT and need for recovery. The great thing about it at Mania is that we were using the Schwinn bikes with their upgraded power console……nice and simple with the ability to get readings on the fly for historical peak power.

        You very quickly learn that, with the passage of time and multiple rounds, peak power starts to become mediocre power and at the same time your heart rate rises.

    2. Vivienne,
      I had never heard of Orange Theory Fitness, but based on the sections you just suggested, plus their section on “our sessions,” I’m actually pretty impressed. True, they put a bit too much emphasis on EPOC (we all know it’s probably not as much of a calorie burner as first thought), but it’s a good selling point…can’t blame them for that. I also like that they have a resistance training component to their workouts vs. all cardio. There’s a lot of bad fitness programs and facilities out there, but based on my first impression, I’m kinda liking what Orange Theory is selling. Definitely better than that place with all the purple equipment 😉

      1. I’ll grant you it does look impressive…..glowing descriptions of their HIIT philosophy and enthusiastic testimonials. It’s called marketing and, although there’s a science about that, it’s not physiology. From reading on the site and some of the testimonials on local sites such as yelp, it appears that it’s an iteration of multiple rounds each with a high intensity component (they it Base Push All Out)…..or as I call it sprint, sprint,sprint again…..and sprint some more. Can’t be done without adequate recovery and much like the HIIT proponents that J.A.S’s referring to, recovery doesn’t seem to be addressed appropriately.

        Another red flag to me is an implication that they’re using HRM training zones…..which are valueless in the context of HIIT. One of the testimonials I read praised the idea that stratospheric heart rates were an excellent motivator and described her workout plus personal HR in a way that made me think it was made up.

        FWIW, I’d never heard of Orange Theory until a few weeks ago when I spotted it on a SPINNING MI’s bio and checked it out. I looked to see what the “gym” actually looked like only to find that it had closed its doors. Then I spotted one in the next town. Mark my words, now you’ve been given the heads-up, you’ll see them everywhere.

        I suspect that it’s going to resemble Crossfit boxes which tend to open and then close within a few months around here…..which doesn’t please me in a general sense as I’ve experienced dreams and frustrations that go with operating a bricks and mortar facility. I reckon it goes to show that you can’t make physiology up and expect it to sell over the long haul.

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