Become a Better Cyclist: Is HIIT or LISS the Best Way to Get in Shape?

In this blog we will take a closer look at two of the most dominant forms of cardio: HIIT and LISS. What do the acronyms mean, why should you do them, and which is better for getting in shape?

What is HIIT?

HIIT is an acronym for High Intensity Interval Training. As the name implies, HIIT revolves around doing cycles of high intensity – typically around 90-95% effort or heart rate – followed by short rest periods.

Sprints (on foot or on your bike), swimming and rowing can all be excellent HIIT exercises. It can be configured in a number of different ways, with one of the more common options being four intervals of 4 minutes broken up by two minutes of active rest between. Going for shorter and more intense cycles is also possible, where 1:20 of intense effort followed by 40 seconds of rest is popular.

HIIT’s leads to short, but intense workouts that can be completed in 20 minutes or less. It will greatly increase your stamina, and the intense effort will be very demanding for your muscles. Don’t be surprised if your legs feel like jell-o for a couple of days afterwards!

What is LISS?

LISS, the acronym for Low Intensity Steady State, is opposite HIIT on the cardio spectrum, and it is a far more common way of exercising.

Less physically taxing than its above counterpart, LISS involves steady exertion over a longer period of time, usually somewhere around 40-65% of your heart rate. This is how our wonderful members commute to work, and can also be done through brisk walking, jogging and swimming.

You typically won’t have periods of rest when doing a LISS workout (though there’s nothing wrong with that), and it can last for as short as 30 minutes and as long as several hours. LISS will burn more calories than HIIT due to lasting much longer, but will be less efficient in increasing your maximal oxygen uptake.

Is HIIT or LISS the Best Way to Get in Shape?

The two are often seen as diametrically opposed training styles. In reality, the fact that they have different strengths and weaknesses means that they complement each other very will. Doing both will likely be better for you than doing just one.

During aerobic training such as LISS, the intensity is low enough that oxygen is constantly available to your muscles. HIIT and other anaerobic exercise is performed at a high enough level of intensity that the body relies on additional energy stores like ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and glycogen to fuel the body instead of just oxygen.

Doing HIIT workouts and pushing into your body’s red zone, so to speak, will increase your VO2 max, your maximal oxygen uptake. Both exercise styles will burn calories and fat, and help maintain a healthy heart and strong muscles.

In the end, the only “best” way to get in shape is to find a form of exercise that you enjoy enough that you will stick to it and continue doing it! For most people, it is irrelevant that HIIT is better at increasing your VO2 max. The most important thing you can do is choosing a form of cardio that you enjoy.

It simply doesn’t matter how optimal a workout is if you don’t do it. So go ahead and enjoy your rides and workouts, however you personally prefer doing them!

Are you cycling to work or thinking of starting? Our state of the art facilities offer more than 400 bike parking spaces utilising the latest German engineering, secure personal lockers, plenty of showers, on-site bicycle repairs and valet laundry service, all on King George Square in the heart of Brisbane CBD!

Learn more about our wonderful amenities on our website or book a free 7-day trial to try it yourself!

This blog is a part of our Become a Better Cyclist series. You can find the previous entries here:

 

 

 

This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the cycle2city blog. Consult your GP before making changes to your exercise regimen or diet.


Become a Better Cyclist: Strengthening Exercises for Cyclists

Cycling is very unique in that it puts your body in the same position and has you performing the same motion thousands of times every time you ride.

Your body will adapt to this stimuli and strengthen your muscles to produce maximum power output in certain ranges of motion. It’s great for cycling, but it may be less than optimal from a every day health perspective.

For example, riding will put your back into flexion; leaning forward and bending your back. Therefore, strengthening muscles that pull the back into a neutral position could be a good idea to avoid becoming hunched over.

All of these exercises will be possible to do at home! Try to aim for 3-5 sets of the same number of repetitions. You don’t want to burn yourself out completely, so try to stop when you feel like you could do two more reps: this is more effective for muscle growth than going to failure, and should allow you to repeat the same set a couple times.

Without further ado, let’s look at our top 5 strengthening exercises that will make you a better cyclist!

Glute bridge

Your glutes are some of the most powerful muscles in your body – or at least they should be. As part of the muscles that extend your hips and let you stand up straight, glutes can often become weakened if you have a sedentary lifestyle or spend most of your workday sitting down.

Glute bridges are a great way to strengthen one of the key muscles in cycling. Better yet, you can do it at home – right now – with no additional equipment needed. Simply lie down on your back, plant your soles on the floor shoulder width apart, and use your glutes to drive your hips up.

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Try to keep your shins as perpendicular to the floor as you can. Engage your core to keep your upper body straight, and that’s it! Single leg glute bridge, the more advanced version, is a great option if you find glute bridges too easy: do this by keeping one leg straight and in line with your torso, and the other planted as normal.

Bent-over row

Since most of our time spent on a bike is leaning forward, it’s important to strengthen your back muscles so that we can avoid getting hunched over. The bent-over row is an excellent exercise that targets the middle and upper part of your back while using your core to stabilise your position.

Place your right hand and right knee on an even surface – you could use two chairs, a table, or even a sofa or bed. Engage your core to keep your back straight, and keep your neck in a neutral position. Grab your dumbbell with the left hand and use your back muscles to drive your elbow back. Simple as you like.

If you don’t have access to dumbbells or kettlebells at home, there are plenty of ways to improvise! A three litre milk bottle (or two) could be plenty for a beginner. You could also put a couple in a backpack or use a bucket – just be careful not to spill it! Resistance bands are also a great option here.

Russian twist

Cycling requires a strong core. A lot of time spent on the bike is with your torso in front of your centre of gravity, and strong abdominal muscles will help balance your body. Core exercises can be quite tricky; sit-ups can sometimes be a bit hard on your back, while lying leg lifts can end up using your hip flexors – muscles that already see plenty of use when pedaling – more than your abs.

Few exercises develop strong abdominal muscles like the Russian twist, though. Here’s how you do a Russian twist: simply sit down on the floor with your feet out in front of you. You can keep your heels on the ground if you like, but try not to put too much weight on them. 

Start by holding your clenched fists above your hips. Twist to one side, touch the ground lightly and then do the same on the other side. Add weight if you find this too easy! Dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls are optimal, but you can also be creative and fill an empty milk bottle with water. Taking your feet off the ground will make it harder, as you will need to use your core muscles to stabilise your body.

Push-ups

Now that we have exercises that cover your back, glutes and core muscles, it’s time to cover the chest and triceps. Although they aren’t directly related to pedaling power, it’s important to ensure that no muscle groups are underdeveloped. Strong triceps will also make it easier to ride for longer periods, as strong arms help support your bodyweight.

Place your hands under your shoulder joint or slightly outside. Keep your core engaged and straight, and lower yourself down before pushing up. If you find it hard to know how low you need to go, you can put a tennis ball or orange beneath your chest!

There are a lot of push-up variations available if you find them too easy: deficit push-ups, pike push-ups or using a weighted backpack are great options if you are more advanced.

Dumbbell deadlifts

Deadlifts are a fantastic way to train your whole posterior chain in one exercise: you’ll feel this in your back, glutes and hamstrings as well as your abs. It’s deceptively simple, but slow and controlled movements will still make this one challenging.

Simply stand up straight with weights in your hands. Unlock your knees and pull your hips backwards to start the movement. “Paint your legs” with the weights on the way down to keep your centre of gravity over your midfoot. Stop when you feel your hamstrings stretched far enough that you can’t go lower without using your knees; usually just below the knees.

Too simple? Try one-legged for an added challenge! Yes, this does require weights, but getting creative with a bucket of water, a bag of cement or two milk bottles is an option if you don’t have dumbbells or a kettlebell available.

This blog is a part of our Become a Better Cyclist series. You can find the previous entries here:

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This blog does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the cycle2city blog. Consult your GP before making changes to your exercise regimen or diet.