Even if you are relatively new to fitness, you’ve likely heard of HIIT workouts, or perhaps the full term: high-intensity interval training. HIIT workouts involve performing repeated bouts of vigorous exercise followed by easy recovery intervals.
And, while the benefits of HIIT are undeniable and should be celebrated, there is also another viable player in the game of worthy workouts: LIIT.
While far fewer people are buzzing about LIIT because it’s arguably less glamorous than the Instagram-worthy sweaty selfie after a tough HIIT workout, LIIT can be a great type of workout to add to your training program.
If you’re keen on adding variety to your exercise routine and slowing things down every so often, keep reading to learn all about LIIT workouts and how to do LIIT exercise.
We will cover:
- What Is LIIT?
- LIIT vs. HITT
- Does LIIT Exercise Work?
- 4 Benefits of LIIT
- LIIT Workouts: 50 Low Intensity Interval Training Exercises
- How to Do a LIIT Workout
Let’s get started!
What Is LIIT?
LIIT workouts may sound like some sort of “awesome” or “rad” workout based on the slang usage of “lit” (as in, “My workout was lit; I hit a huge PR!).
Certainly, a LIIT workout can be amazing, but rather than having anything to do with being cool, LIIT stands for low-intensity interval training.
Essentially, LIIT is similar to HIIT in that it involves performing bouts of harder or more intense exercise followed by recovery periods, but rather than “hard” intervals being super high intensity, they are low intensity.
The recovery periods are even lower in intensity.
LIIT vs. HIIT
The structure of LIIT and HIIT workouts is similar: You alternate between intervals of a higher intensity and a lower intensity over the duration of the workout.
However, the difference in the intensities for the hard efforts between the two styles is significant.
In this way, HIIT workouts primarily target zone 4 (80-90% of your maximum heart rate) and zone 5 (90-100% of your maximum heart rate).
With LIIT, in contrast, your hard intervals should feel like a jogging effort, with your heart rate reaching only about a maximum of 80% of your max.
The recovery efforts should feel like a walking effort where your heart rate should drop down to potentially as low as 60% of your maximum.
Therefore, LIIT workouts primarily target zone 2 (60-70% of your maximum heart rate) and zone 3 (70-80% of your maximum heart rate) rather than the higher zones of 4 and 5.
Wearing a heart rate monitor is the best way to know if you are exerting yourself appropriately during the hard intervals and recovering enough during the easy intervals.
You can also manually take your pulse at your wrist or carotid artery in the neck if you don’t have a heart rate monitor.
So, how else are HIIT and LIIT different besides the overall gentler pace of LIIT relative to the extreme exertion required in HIIT workouts?
Due to the marked difference in intensity, LIIT workouts tend to be substantially longer than HIIT workouts.
The entire premise around the HIIT style of training is that because you’re exercising so vigorously during the “on” intervals and never recovering fully, the workout is extremely time efficient.
This is why the cardiovascular and metabolic benefits of HIIT workouts are said to be equivalent to a moderate-intensity steady-state cardio workout that’s 40% longer.
LIIT is more similar to the intensity level of a standard steady-state cardio workout in the aerobic zone (if not even more relaxed), so it’s going to require a longer workout to achieve the same calorie burn, aerobic fitness improvements, and metabolic changes.
Most HIIT workouts last about 20-30 minutes, while a LIIT workout would need to be at least 40-60 minutes or so to enjoy the same benefits.
Does LIIT Exercise Work?
Many people are understandably concerned that the low-intensity of LIIT workouts is simply not vigorous enough to actually improve your fitness or health.
However, studies have found that as long as the duration of the low-intensity exercise is sufficient, the benefits of LIIT and HIIT are largely comparable.
For example, one study found that even low volumes of low-intensity exercise resulted in significant and similar reductions in waist circumference, body fat, and body weight as high-volume, high-intensity exercise.
The only major difference was that the high-volume, high-intensity exercise reduced blood glucose more notably.
The effectiveness of any style of training or workout really depends on your fitness goals and how that type of workout or exercise factors into the overall context of your training program.
Variety in the mode of exercise, as well as the intensity, duration, and structure of the workout, tends to be best in terms of yielding the greatest improvements in all five aspects of health-related physical fitness (aerobic endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition).
Consequently, rather than always doing HIIT workouts, always doing LIIT workouts, or always cruising along with steady-state cardio exercise without mixing up your pace, it’s advantageous to do some amount of all three throughout each week.
4 Benefits of LIIT
There are several benefits of LIIT workouts, which make them a worthy training tool to add to your exercise routine.
#1: LIIT Workouts Are Beginner Friendly
Undeniably, one of the best things about LIIT workouts is that they’re safe, approachable, and appropriate for anyone, regardless as to your current fitness level, exercise experience, age, weight, or body fat percentage.
HIIT workouts can be really intimidating for beginners or people who aren’t feeling in shape or in good physical form.
#2: LIIT Workouts Are Safer
It can be dangerous to try and perform strength training exercises, such as burpees, squats, deadlifts, lunges, at the vigorous intensity and fast pace mandated by HIIT workouts if you lack the experience you need and have poor form and technique.
In contrast, the slower pace and gentler intensity of LIIT allows even beginners to focus on form and technique, prioritizing safety.
Additionally, the low-intensity nature of LIIT makes it much less stressful on the bones, joints, muscles, and connective tissues.
Moving at a slower pace and using lighter loads or less resistance puts less strain on your tissues, reducing the risk of injury.
You’re also moving slower, so the risk of accidental missteps and mishaps that can cause sudden injuries during vigorous exercise is also negated.
#3: LIIT Workouts Burn Fat
Low-intensity exercise burns a relatively higher proportion of stored body fat compared to muscle glycogen.
Although this doesn’t mean that you are necessarily going to lose more fat or weight overall by doing LIIT rather than HIIT (that comes down to the total number of calories you burn in your workouts and the composition of your diet), it does mean that LIIT targets the fat-oxidizing pathways in the body, which can help your muscles become more efficient at burning fat as fuel.
This, in turn, can potentially improve endurance performance because of the glycogen-sparing effects seen by meeting a greater percentage of your energy needs by burning fat at higher intensities of exercise rather than carbohydrates.
#4: LIIT Improves Aerobic Fitness
Like other forms of aerobic exercise, LIIT increases circulation, strengthens the heart and lungs, builds cardiovascular and muscular endurance, and can reduce blood pressure.
LIIT Workouts: 50 Low Intensity Interval Training Exercises
There’s a ton of flexibility in terms of the type of exercise you do for a LIIT workout.
For example, you can do a LIIT workout walking or jogging, cycling, swimming, rowing, performing bodyweight exercises, using circuit training weight machines at the gym, or striding on an elliptical machine.
You can do any type of exercise that brings your heart rate to at least 60%, but not more than 80%, of your maximum.
Below are some examples:
|LIIT Cardio Exercises
|LIIT Strength Training Exercises
|Deep Water Running
|Marching In Place
|Slide Board Ice Skaters
|Punching a Heavy Bag or Speed Bag
|Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
How to Do a LIIT Workout
Just as there is flexibility in the type of exercise you do for a LIIT workout, there’s also tons of flexibility in the workout structure you choose to follow for a LIIT workout.
For the intervals, there’s open flexibility in terms of the duration of the “hard” intervals.
You might go anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes for your “on” piece, and then recover for either as little as you’d like or as long as it takes your heart rate to come down to no less than 60% of your maximum heart rate.
An example of a LIIT treadmill workout could be 90 seconds of jogging with your heart rate up to 75-80% of your maximum followed by 3 minutes of walking.
You might do 12 rounds in total, which would bring your workout time to a little under an hour.
You can also do LIIT with strength training exercises, such as squats, planks, rows, etc.
In this case, each exercise might be performed for one minute followed by 30 seconds of rest, walking around, or marching in place before starting the next exercise.
Keep an eye on your heart rate to confirm that you’re exerting yourself within that 60-80% of your max heart rate range.
The “hard” intervals should be closer to 70-80% and the recovery bouts should allow your heart rate to fall to 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.
For best results, make sure your workout is at least 40-45 minutes long, and closer to an hour is ideal.
With LIIT workouts, you can enjoy the relative ease while still moving your body and improving your health and fitness. Exercise doesn’t always have to be hard.
However, if you are looking for more intensity, you can check out our HIIT workout guide.