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As a runner, I love combining strength training and HIIT. They are both excellent at staying in shape, burning calories, and losing weight. In this article, I will compare strength training vs. HIIT and help you choose which is best for you.
Read on to find out
- Everything you need to know about strength training and HIIT
- What are they?
- Their benefits and drawbacks
- Which one is best for weight loss
- Which one is a greater caloric burner
- And more
Table of Contents
What Is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?
High-Intensity Interval Training (aka HIIT) is any exercise that you can do anywhere. It involves bursts of intense workouts (working harder for certain intervals) that increase your heart rate to about 80% to 90% of your maximum heart rate, followed by more extended periods of low-intensity exercise that bring the heart rate down and engage the anaerobic energy system.
In other words, HIIT means you push your body well out of its comfort zone for five seconds to eight minutes, depending on your performing exercise, followed by a moment of rest.
Pros and Cons of HIIT Training
Below are the pros and cons of HIIT training:
Advantages of HIIT
HIIT has several benefits, especially if you already have some experience with exercise.
- Time-efficient, you only need a little time (about 20 minutes) characterized by periods of effort, followed by brief recovery periods.
- Since you work harder with HIIT, you will receive the benefits of training in less time than you would from regular and more extended workout sessions. Three 10-minute HIIT sessions a week can make your body more efficient at delivering oxygen to your muscles and improving your metabolic health, revealed a study issued in The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.
- It effectively improves your cardiorespiratory functions and anaerobic capacity.
- You can do HIIT anywhere and anytime: There is no need to go to the gym or a spinning class. You can do HIIT workouts that only use your body weight.
- Use minimum equipment (you can use your body weight or at-home workouts)
- HIIT can add some variety to your training.
- HIIT Gives the best return on investment. Depending on your age and physical conditioning, aim to take at least 24 hours off between workouts. Forty-eight hours will provide you with even more time to recover.
- Improved calorie afterburn – the harder you work during your exercise, the longer it will take your body to get back to normal, which means you will burn more calories for an extended period after your workout.
- HIIT boosts metabolism for hours after exercise, even more than strength training and running, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC, also called afterburn), a measurably improved rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity, according to studies.
- Improved Overall Heart Health HIIT training can help you lower blood pressure and improve your heart health.
Disadvantages of HIIT
- Less beginner friendly – I suggest you start learning the proper form of doing conventional exercises and steadily progress to HIIT training. Before adding HIIT to your workout, you should have a basic foundation of cardio training.
- Require motivation since it requires maximum effort for each movement and can be more challenging when you train alone.
- HIIT is a highly demanding exercise and can strain the body if you are a beginner without prior training experience.
- Some people may neglect techniques by wanting to make their movements faster.
- Increases the risk of injury, especially without learning proper forms.
- Risk of overtraining or burnout; performing too much HIIT too soon can lead to an increased risk of dropping out of exercise and burnout. I suggest you restrict HIIT workouts to one to two a week to avoid overtraining, especially if you are a beginner.
Who can do HIIT?
If you are a complete beginner to fitness, you might want to start with regular weight training, running, swimming, or biking to develop a level of tolerance to exercise. Starting with HIIT can be a shock to your system.
Your goal should be to achieve a good level of fitness and keep training in the long term.
Don’t train twice a day or within 24 hours because it might lead to fatigue and overtraining.
If you aim to perform HIIT every day, ensure you pay special attention to your nutrition, energy levels, and sleep.
Properly performing HIIT is an effective way to improve your cardiovascular capacity and burn fat without spending extended time in the gym.
What Is Strength Training?
Strength training (aka resistance training or weight training) uses resistance to muscular contraction to build strength and develop anaerobic endurance and the size of skeletal muscles. The principle behind strength training is that muscles will work to overcome a resistance force when required, building muscles and becoming stronger.
With just a few short sessions weekly, strength training can help you get stronger and look and feel better.
You can perform strength training either with free weights such as dumbbells, barbells, and weight machines or with no equipment at all.
Exercises that use your body for resistance involve:
You can also use resistance bands:
- Arm curls
Tips for Best Results Doing Strength-training:
- Discuss with a personal trainer to learn the proper forms of doing each exercise.
- Performing each workout 8 to 12 times is generally enough to work your muscles.
- If your muscles are so exhausted you can barely complete your 12th repetition, it means you are doing enough work.
- Start slowly and gradually increase the weight or resistance as the exercises become more manageable.
- The American Heart Association recommends doing strength training at least twice a week.
Pros and Cons of Strength Training
Like HIIT, strength training also has advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with the proven advantages of strength training.
Proven Advantages of Strength Training
Strength training is excellent in increasing muscle strength along with other benefits. In addition, strength training appropriately done has significant benefits with long-term rewards.
- Lower Abdominal Fat
When you incorporate strength training into your exercise routine, you will increase lean muscle mass and burn calories, which boost your metabolism.
In a study published in Obesity, Harvard researchers followed 10,500 men over 12 years. Harvard’s scientists discovered that strength training is more effective at preventing increases in abdominal fat than cardiovascular exercise.
- Lowered Injury Risks
Having a good muscle base is essential for all movement, balance, coordination, and injury prevention. If your muscles are too weak, it will put more stress on their connecting tendon and can result in tendinitis in the long run.
Strength training improves the number and diameter of collagen fibrils in tendons to develop their strength and help prevent injury, revealed a 2015 review issued in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.
- Improved Flexibility and Mobility
With Strength training, you take your joints through their full range of motion.
Eccentricity strength exercises may provide the most significant benefit, improving hamstring flexibility twice, and static stretching, showed a study issued by the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.
Eccentric exercises are any workouts that emphasize muscle lengthening rather than shortening, such as the lowering phase of a squat or raising the bar throughout a lat pull-down.
- Make You Live Longer
One of strength training’s many benefits includes a longer life. Grip strength correctly predicts death from any cause, according to a study in The Lancet.
Lean muscle mass and muscle strength may serve as better measures of overall health than body mass index or BMI suggested in a report in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.
Even though strength training gives you strength and helps prevent injury. However, there are also disadvantages to strength training.
Disadvantages of strength training
Like anything in life, strength training has also a few disadvantages. Here are the disadvantages of strength training.
- Cause Muscle Aches and Pains
You may have heard the saying “No pain, no gain,” but overusing your muscles while doing strength training and sports can result in varying degrees of pain that may persevere for several days.
Lifting too much weight, mainly if you use weight or move unusually to build muscles, could cause muscle tear and damage your ligaments, tendons, and surrounding soft tissue.
- Poor form
You must learn to perform strength training properly because inadequate forms can make it difficult to isolate your target muscle effectively, causing injuries and more muscle soreness.
Best Tips for Safely Strength Train
- Always start with stretch, warm-up, and cool-down.
- Start lifting lightweight to learn proper form and prevent injury. You can learn proper exercise form through a class or by hiring a personal trainer.
- Never train with weights at a high level of intensity (HIIT) without mastering the lifting technique involved in performing the exercise.
- Allow recovery time; alternate and work out muscle or muscle group every other day. The general recommendation is to rest at least 48 hours between strength training sessions.
- Wear footwear to cushion a blow from a falling weight and to avoid stubbing toes.
- Use spotters when lifting free weights that are heavier than 90% of your maximum. Using spotters will help prevent the weight from dropping on you.
- Load or unload a barbell evenly to have the same amount of weight on both sides.
- Inhale or exhale while lifting a weight. Breath-holding can cause the Valsalva maneuver resulting in fainting.
- Always make sure you tighten the plate collars for free weights.
- Decrease muscle soreness by gradually adjusting your workouts.
- Listen to your body and stop exercising if you have any of the following signs:
- You cannot finish a series of exercises or an exercise session
- Can’t talk while exercising
- Feel faint after a workout session
- Feel tired throughout the day
- Suffer joint pains and aches after a session.
How To Get Motivated to Strength Train?
- Combine strength training with flexibility exercises, such as yoga, cardio, and swimming)
- Make strength training fun (Find your way, listen to music and podcasts)
- Reward yourself for completing your daily workouts.
- Exercise at least three times a week and more.
- If you are bored – go for a run or exercise; in the end, it will become habits.
- Remember, HIIT can be mixed with weight training to give good results, and cardio can be a part of the weight training schedule(or sometimes should be).
Strength Training Vs. HIIT: Fat Loss
HIIT is a quick and effective way to burn fat. With its demanding work-to-rest ratios, it is arguably the most time-efficient way to train and burn calories. In addition, you can do the HIIT protocol to develop your entire workout.
Another review examined 13 different studies on 424 overweight and obese adults. Researchers observed that both HIIT and traditional moderate-intensity exercise could reduce weight and waist circumference.
HIIT reduces blood sugar levels, found a review of 50 different studies.
Also, HIIT can reduce blood pressure and resting heart rate in overweight and obese individuals, showed another study.
Strength Training Vs. HIIT: Weight Loss
Both HIIT and resistance training is effective for losing weight, revealed a study. Researchers discovered that the people who included both in their workout routine had the best overall weight loss, fat loss, and cardio fitness.
But HIIT offers the highest calories burned. You will burn more calories during a HIIT workout than in strength training. Additionally, you will burn more fat and calories in the 24 hours after a HIIT workout than you do after.
Research also suggests HIIT will result in a more significant reduction of body fat than traditional exercise.
However, I would recommend you choose the exercise you enjoy the most because you will do more of it when you enjoy something.
Remember, the basic principle in losing fat is what we call a “calorie deficit” basically, what that means is if you use more energy than you eat, then you’ll lose weight; it is that simple.
Energy deficits are what are effective for fat loss. But the easiest way to create energy deficits is with nutrition; exercise undoubtedly plays burning fat.
Strength Training Vs. HIIT: a Snapshot
Both strength training and HIIT are excellent for your fitness levels. Here is a snapshot of strength training vs. HIIT compared side by side.
|Goal||– Low repetitions|
– Best for body composition results
|Brief intervals (15–60 seconds) at the 90% of max level.|
|Equipment||A few pieces of equipment |
– Your bodyweight
– Bench, barbell, and dumbbells
|– Little to no equipment|
– Push-ups, dips, chin-ups, or pull-ups
|Time Required||About an hour||About 20 minutes|
|Muscle Worked||Target major muscle groups and build muscle mass||Lean muscles|
|Overall Health and Wellness Increase||– Provide you with overall health and wellness increase |
– Muscle endurance and strength
– Increase your metabolism
– Weight loss
– Fat loss
|– Provide you with greater fitness benefits |
– Burn calories effectively and faster
– Increase your metabolism
– Develop power and speed
– Weight loss
– Fat loss
|Pros||– Increased muscle mass|
– Stronger bones
– Joint flexibility
– Weight control
|– Time saver |
– Torch a lot of calories in a short time
– Higher metabolic rate after exercising
– Help with fat loss
– Improve oxygen consumption
– Reduce heart rate and blood pressure
|Cons||– More muscle soreness|
– Higher injury risk
– Large increases in blood pressure
|– Not beginners friendly|
– Increases the risk of injury without proper form
– Require a high level of motivation
– A highly demanding form of training
– Each movement requires maximum effort.
Is HIIT Better Than Strength Training?
HIIT is more effective at reducing abdominal fat than other types of exercise, according to a study issued by the Journal of Obesity. In addition, HIIT is more effective for fat burn than strength training, found a study.
If you want to lose fat, a good HIIT routine will be more effective. HIIT workouts are great for burning many calories leading you to lose weight.
Strength training will help you build muscle which will, in turn, increase your metabolism and lead to fat loss. However, caloric burn is much slower with strength training than with HIIT.
Additionally, HIIT is great for losing fat, mainly if used in conjunction with a weight training regimen.
Strength Training Vs. HIIT: Which One Should You Do?
The best exercise is the one that you love the most because then you will be consistent. Consistency is key when it comes to results. And it all depends on your health and fitness level, and goals.
If you have no preference and want to know which is best for your fat loss and muscle building, I would suggest you start with weight training and then add HIIT training later once you gain experience exercising.
- Weight training helps you build the most muscles, and building muscles is good for bone health, promotes healthy hormones in your body, and boosts your metabolism.
- HIIT is similar to weight training, but it might be too hard for your joints and can cause more injury than weight training.
Choose HIIT if:
- You have the experience exercising and are comfortable (know the proper form) with high-intensity exercise.
- You want to focus on burning more calories and losing weight throughout and after your workouts.
- You have a busy lifestyle and are looking for shorter and more effective workouts.
- You want workouts that mix up various exercises and intensities to keep things fun and interesting.
- You want to build stamina and endurance quickly.
- HIIT is a more enjoyable and time-efficient strategy, according to a study.
Choose strength training if:
- You are a beginner or are coming back from an extended exercise break.
- You want workouts to keep yourself active and meet your weekly activities requirements.
- You can’t perform high-impact exercise or don’t like exercising at very high intensities.
- You want to complement your workout programs such as running, yoga, cycling, and swimming.
- Strength training is an essential component for building muscles and getting stronger.
Strength Training Vs HIIT: Blend Both Workouts
As the adage goes, “variety is the spice of life,” and finding the best way to train for you and your goals is essential. You can use both strength training and HIIT to effectively get the most out of your time and workout routine.
Rather than focusing your workouts strictly on HIIT or strength training, you can mix up both. By blending them, you will reap the calorie-burning benefits of HIIT with the muscle-building benefits of resistance training.
Sample Workout Plan Mixing strength Training and HIIT
- Monday: Strength Training: Upper Body
- Tuesday: HIIT Workout
- Wednesday: Rest or light activity
- Thursday: Strength Training: Lower Body
- Friday: HIIT Workout
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday: Perform 30 or more minutes of moderate cardio, such as running, walking, jogging, cycling, swimming
The most important thing about choosing strength training vs HIIT is consistency, enjoyment, and form. Both strength training and HIIT cardio are excellent ways to maximize fat loss and help build muscles.
- If you are new to exercising, I suggest starting with light strength training such as push up, and dip workouts mixed with cardio training running. Remember that mixing heavy weight lifting with HIIT might be too challenging for you until you develop a better training foundation.
- If you have the experience exercising, I recommend combining strength training and HIIT to help you burn fat in different ways. Remember, nothing is better for you than a good diet and hydration.
No matter your health and fitness goals, finding the right combination of HIIT and strength training, along with a healthy diet, will help you reach your goals successfully and sooner.