It’s hard to escape all the fanfare surrounding HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, which prevents plateaus by keeping your body at your max heart rate for very short intervals.
But another training approach called steady-state training, or SST, may be just as important, if not more so, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.
Steady-state training is the opposite of HIIT yet, at the same time, is complementary to it. It involves maintaining a specific heart rate below your target maximum for an extended period of time. Using a treadmill workout as an example, with HIIT you walk for two minutes and then run all out for one minute. With SST, you walk at a brisk pace the whole way through.
While HIIT is a known calorie torcher, there are plenty of pluses to SST.
It’s great for strengthening the heart: Maintaining a steady state of aerobic output forces the body to become efficient at pumping oxygenated blood through the body. A constant steady state also helps the body burn fat for fuel. There also is less chance of injury than when you change pace in high-intensity interval training.
So does SST have any downside? The answer is yes.
You are at a higher risk for stress or repetitive injury simply because you are doing the same thing for a longer period of time over and over. You have to exercise longer to see any results, and there is a higher risk of boredom.
Depending on your health and goals, one answer is to incorporate both SST and HIIT into your weekly regimen. As always, consult a professional before starting any exercise program.
The American Council on Exercise has more on SST and how to incorporate it into your regimen.