HIIT vs. Strength Training


By Laura Des Cognets, CPT

If you've been anywhere around the fitness industry in the past few years, it's likely you've heard the acronym HIIT. What does it stand for you ask? We'll tell ya! It's High Intensity Interval Training. Strength Training on the other hand doesn't really need an acronym. It's been around for a long time and is pretty self explanatory.

Now that you know the basics, let's get in to how these two training methods differ.


Exercises used in HIIT generally contain a combination of muscles groups working together in various ranges of motion with the goal being the more of your muscular system that you challenge in one movement or during a series of movements to complete a single repetitive cycle, the more challenged your body is as a whole. Think jump lunges, mountain climbers, kettlebell swings or battle ropes. These exercises are designed to challenge different muscle groups--killing multiple birds with one stone. You will often work your lower body, core and shoulders in one exercise, all while getting your heart rate up. They are usually powerful, quick motions requiring a certain amount of strength, balance and endurance.

The HIIT programs come in various forms. Tabata (20 second work/10 seconds rest x 8 rounds) AMRAP (as many rounds as possible), or really any timed interval where you work for a certain period and rest for a shorter period either completing a longer one circuit of exercises or going back and forth between 2 exercises before switching to another set of two exercises.

What do people say about HIIT? Participants will say they love the high energy, that it makes them sweat, and that they see gains in strength and loss in fat. It is great for endurance and less of a grind than spending an hour on the treadmill, plus, unlike the traditional cardio, you'll be engaging more muscles and burning more fat for the long term.

Strength Training:

Having been around for centuries, the traditional practice of lifting heavy loads through a single movement helps to pack on muscle, burn fat and is great for boosting the metabolism. In different gyms, you might hear strength training called weight training, resistance training, or even bodybuilding.

Programs can vary a lot. The biggest misconception being that strength training means lifting HUGE loads with the goal of HUGE muscles. We cannot list the amount of times we have heard from clients that they don't want their muscles to be too big and are even afraid of doing any strength training. Honestly, that is another blog post in itself. Lighter weight loads are still strength training. You will also use your own bodyweight in strength training (i.e. Push-ups). Resistance bands can pack a punch in strength training as well. Functional strength training means that you will use several muscle groups in one exercise, often engaging your core. There is a place for traditional lifting as in barbell squats and chest presses, but it's certainly not what you're limited to.

What makes it different from HIIT? The movements and exercises will vary, as well as the load and the volume of work. It's not uncommon to do as little as 5 reps of a strength exercise if you're really pushing the load. The pace in strength training should be slower than HIIT. You might shoot for a slower tempo, sometimes pause in the middle of a move, or maybe a slow motion move combined with an explosive one. In between reps or rounds, your trainer will probably as you to rest a bit, which can prove to be difficult for someone used to the HIIT method. Something we hear a lot from clients is that they are more sore from strength training than HIIT. They also say that they FEEL stronger, that they can hit a golf ball further and more easily pick up heavy loads at home.

More positives? So many! We'll keep it simple. For men: Strength training boosts your testosterone levels, and for women: it regulates hormone and thyroid levels plus it has some great benefits for bone density and lowering blood pressure.

So, what should YOU do?

At LiveWELL, we offer both more traditional strength training and the HIIT method. We combine the two in our personal training sessions and classes. In personal training, you will do more strength training, however, we definitely implement high intensity work in those sessions! Monday you might do 5 sets of 5 and Wednesday knock out 300 reps. We offer a faster paced Afterburn class AND an Industrial Strength class where will ask you to lift heavier and slower. In short, you'll get it all here at LiveWELL!





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