When it comes to working out, whether that’s at home or at a gym, you have a lot of choices.
High-intensity interval training, weight training, aerobic exercise, bodyweight exercises, steady-state cardio...so what do you choose?
What is best for you?
Well, the first step to figuring that out is to narrow down what you’re hoping to achieve by these workouts. What are your goals?
Is it weight loss? Fat loss? Body composition? Or perhaps general overall health? Perhaps you’re concerned about bone density as you age. Or, you just want to be more active.
Whatever the reason is, be clear. Even if it’s just with yourself.
It will be much easier to plan your workouts, and anything else you may need to do, if you are 100% clear on what you want to achieve.
If you need help setting your goals, head over to….
So, now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s find out whether HIIT workouts or strength training would be best way to reach them…
Before we go any further I just want to reassure you about muscle, because I still think there's a tendency for women to shy away from the weights.
The concern, I think, is that you’ll end up looking bulky. Looking like a man. Or worse, looking like those female bodybuilders from the eighties. You know the ones I’m talking about.
But, don’t worry.
It takes a lot of work to look like that.
Hours of structured training. Hours of meal prep in the kitchen. And a carefully controlled diet.
It doesn’t happen by accident. You have to want to do it.
To build big muscles you need a number of things, a workout tailored to building muscle and strength. You need to eat more calories than you need. And you need testosterone.
Whilst us women do have testosterone, we don’t have it in the amount that men do, that’s one of the ways we’re different.
We really aren’t physically able to build muscle big enough to look like a man.
So stop worrying about strength workouts so much.
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is basically what it sounds like, high intensity movements for a short period of time, or intervals, followed by rest periods.
Because your ‘working periods’ are short and followed by rest, you can push yourself that bit harder, hence the name high-intensity.
Why do it?
Well, there is lots of evidence, I mean tons of evidence, that suggests HIIT training is one of the most effective ways to burn body fat.
It is so effective, in fact, that you can spend less time doing it. Just 12 minutes of HIIT, 3 times a week, has been proven to be as effective as 5, one hour sessions.
So, if you’re time challenged, as most of us mamas are, HIIT is a great way to burn some body fat.
But less body fat isn’t the only benefit of doing HIIT. There are lots of health benefits as well.
It’s essentially cardiovascular training, it raises your heart rate, it pumps your blood around your body faster, it gets your lungs working harder.
And that helps your cardiovascular system long term.
Your resting heart rate will be lower. Your blood pressure will be lower. And you will sleep much better.
But HIIT will also help push you out of your comfort zone.
You’ll spend, nearly, the entire workout with thoughts of you can’t do it. You can’t go on. But, you know what, you will. You’ll manage. You’ll get there. And when you do, the sense of accomplishment is immense.
Strength training is all about gaining muscle strength.
It is different to HIIT training which is mostly cardiovascular.
Strength training, or resistance training as it’s also known, usually uses weights.
Not always, you can use other things, like resistance bands, or your body weight, but usually it’s weights. Whether that’s free weights or weight machines.
It’s goal is simple, building muscle. Building lean muscle mass that is strong and looks great.
It does that by focusing movements, exercises, on particular muscle groups. It breaks those muscles down and during the recovery process they repair stronger and bigger.
Why do it?
Well, strength training is great for building muscle, or put another way that ‘toned’ look you may be after.
But, in the same way it builds muscle, it also builds bone density.
The muscles that are put under strain during your workout are attached to bone. And under strain they pull on your bone. That makes your bone grow, become more dense. Stronger.
Weight training can also help with insulin resistance as it increases your sensitivity to insulin. It can help prevent injury, it boosts your mood, your mental health, and can increase your self-esteem.
Well, that really depends….remember when we were talking about goals earlier, what were yours?
Is it weight loss?
Do you want to burn fat?
Then you really need to be doing HIIT. It is far better for fat burning than strength training workouts.
Although, one thing to remember with strength training...muscle needs more calories than fat does, so the more muscle you have the higher your metabolic rate will be. That means the more calories you will burn, even at rest.
Its still not as good as HIIT for fat burning, but it is worth noting.
On the other hand, if your goal is more body composition, by that I mean you don’t just want to burn fat or lose weight, you want more of an athletic physique, you will need to do strength training.
That ‘toned’ look is actually muscle. So to get it you will need to build muscle.
Let’s also think about what you’re going to enjoy doing, because that should be a really big part of your decision.
Remember, you’re going to have to keep doing what you’re planning on doing to get maximum life long results.
It’s not a one and done situation.
You have to keep doing it. And if you’re not enjoying it, you’re not going to keep doing it. You’re going to find reasons, excuses, to not do it.
Make sure you enjoy what you’re doing, or planning to do.
If your goal is more general overall health, maybe you just want to increase your physical activity, why not do both?
High intensity interval training is great for cardiovascular health and strength training is great for bone health, flexibility and keeping you strong.
So why not combine them both.
A well-rounded workout plan should include a cardio workout, strength workouts and some flexibility, mobility, so you’d have at least two of them covered.
Whatever your goal is and whether you choose HIIT workouts, strength training, both, or something completely different, you should also team your workouts with a healthy diet.
Being in a calorie deficit and combining that with the workout, workouts, of your choice is the best way to reach any goal. Especially if your goal is weight loss or body composition related.
But even if you want to get a bit healthier.
Eating a healthy diet is a crucial component.
There is no point doing all this work, planning your workouts, spending your time doing them, if you fill your body with crap afterwards.
I’m not saying you have to cut out all of the ‘bad’ things you enjoy. Absolutely not. That would just be dull.
I’m saying your diet should be packed with fruit and veggies, lean protein, healthy fat and healthy carbs. Sprinkle that with a few treats that you enjoy and you will have a top notch diet.
So with all of that, which one do you want to choose?
HIIT, strength training or both.
Let me know...