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High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Cardio Vs. Traditional Cardio Workouts – Which is Better?

  Sep 21st, 2011
In a follow up question to a response that I provided to a question sent to me by a subscriber of, Sean asked about the difference between HIIT cardio workouts and more traditional cardio workouts.

Sean was concerned with shedding some excess fat that he had put on over the holiday season and wanted to make sure that he was using the most effective form of cardio possible to help him most efficiently reduce his level of body fat.

Here is Sean’s follow up question, along with my detailed response…

Hey Craig,

I have gained a certain amount of fat around my belly ever since the start of this year’s holiday season. Sadly. I’m now training my way back…

One thing I’m really curious is that you said to do cardio as many times each week as possible, around 30 min each session. I always have this question in my head where I’m wondering which is better – HIIT or normal cardio? I have done some research on HIIT and it seems to work fine, even if I would do it occasionally, because my heart rate is always elevated.

But, what I know is that it’s only recommended to do HIIT 3 times a week. Is there any preference between traditional cardio and HIIT? Do you mind explaining these to me?

I would also love to know more about intermittent fasting as it seems to be good for health as well as fat loss. Do let me know and thanks for the reply!

Looking forward to this one as well!


My Response:
Hello Sean!

Don’t get too down on yourself about putting on some belly fat this time of year. Every year from Thanksgiving to New Year’s I put on 5 or 10 pounds (unless I am working towards a personal goal – then I stay dedicated to my diet).

It takes me a couple of months to get rid of the extra fat, but it is a good time of year to ease off of following a strict diet and enjoy some time with family and friends. And, since I don’t neglect my weight training during that time, I actually put on some additional muscle mass and strength because of the increase in calories I am providing my body.

That is a great question regarding cardio and one that I hear quite often. I have tried HIIT cardio workouts along with more moderate intensity, continuous cardio workouts and have to say that both are perfectly acceptable. I used to be a big advocate of HIIT cardio training as being the absolute best way to shed body fat, but I have since come to the realization that the most important thing about shedding fat with cardio workouts is doing them – and doing them often.

I would still say that for the time you spend doing it, HIIT cardio is the most effective form of cardio for burning fat. However, HIIT is difficult to stick with for a prolonged period of time. The workouts really take it out of you and there are just some days where you don’t feel like hitting it that hard.

Plus, HIIT can be quite taxing on your muscles and negatively impact your weight training. By the way, it is for this reason that I don’t recommend doing any form of HIIT on the same day that you weight train – unless it is done immediately following your weight training session.

This is why most people will recommend only using HIIT a few times each week or less and is what I recommend in my upcoming book. For my HIIT workouts I will do interval sprints once or twice per week, but the other 4 or 5 days I just do moderate intensity cardio on my elliptical machine making sure my heart rate is within my target fat burning range. My interval sprints consist of sprinting for 30 seconds and then resting for 90-120 seconds. I do this for a total of 30 minutes.

muscle building secretsThere is one other benefit of HIIT that is worth noting. I haven’t read any studies that would confirm this, but Jason Ferruggia explains in his book, Muscle Gaining Secrets, that HIIT is something that everyone should be doing because it will actually boost your testosterone production and enhance your muscle building results in tandem with enabling you to shed fat.

Jason points to the fact that some of the most jacked and ripped guys you will see on the football field (and in the world) are wide receivers who essentially do interval sprints (along with weight training) 4 or 5 days each week. Olympic sprinters are all jacked as well!

I haven’t noticed much of a difference in terms of muscle growth (or fat loss) in my own personal experiences using HIIT, as compared to doing continuous cardio, but I have also never committed to doing HIIT more than 2 days each week.

Anyway, I used to fret about what kind of cardio I should be using for optimum results and can’t stress enough the importance of just making sure to get in a cardio workout every day of the week (or as many days as you can squeeze in). Even if you only have 15 minutes to train, 15 minutes of cardio is infinitely better than 0 minutes of cardio!

Again, don’t get too caught up in which kind of cardio you are doing. Just make sure to get in your workouts, and as long as your diet is in order, you will get results each week.

In regards to intermittent fasting, there are definitely tons of health benefits that have been linked to occasional fasting. Most notably, fasting allows the body to detoxify itself. The detoxification that fasting can provide has been shown to result in a wide range of benefits:

• Increased liver function

• Enhanced immune system

• Boost in metabolism

• Optimization of mood and energy levels

• Ability to naturally shed body fat faster

I have only used intermittent fasting a handful of times as a way to help me get rid of those final few pounds of body fat, but the health benefits of fasting are certainly worth noting and can provide some additional motivation to help make not eating for a full 24 hours more bearable.

I don’t claim to be an expert in intermittent fasting, but I have done a certain amount of research on the subject. That being said, my limited number of experiences using this technique have been positive. My only complaint is the fact that it requires a considerable amount of self discipline to abstain from food for a full 24 hours, which is why I don’t typically use intermittent fasting as part of my fat loss strategy.

Based on what I have heard, Tom Venuto’s program seems to be a quality, authoritative source on this subject. If I have some time after finishing my book I will try to remember to grab a copy of Tom’s book and do a review of it on

Thanks for checking in and feel free to let me know if you have any further questions as I am here to help!

To Your Muscle Building and Fat Loss Success,

Craig –

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