To some people, cardio is cardio, and training is training.
To everyone else on the internet, you’ll see people divided on whether interval training is better than steady state and vice versa.
The truth is usually somewhere in the middle, which is true in this case.
In this article, I’m going to teach you:
The physiological effects of interval training:
- The physiological effects of steady state
- When it makes sense to use each one
But first, let’s get the definitions out of the way.
Both interval training and steady-state are forms of cardio but performed differently. With interval training, you “go” hard. Typically, the “hard” part is 15 seconds to 2 minutes, followed by an “easy” recovery period of anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes or more.
With a steady state, you maintain a more or less consistent speed for at least 15 minutes or longer.
The mode of activity is irrelevant. You can run, cycle, row, swim, etc.
The Physiological Effects of Interval Training vs. Steady State Training
One study found that interval training increases stroke volume by about 10% more at the cardiovascular level than steady-state training over eight weeks.
What’s “stroke volume, “you ask?
It’s the amount of blood that your heart pumps with each stroke. For the average person (the average person is about 70 kg or 154 pounds), it’s about 70 ml.
Some studies found that interval training increases the strength of heart muscle contractions by 13%. That’s on par with steady-state exercise. But it takes less time.
At the level of the muscle, research is finding that interval training is far superior to the steady state of increasing the total number and efficiency of the mitochondria.
What are the Mitochondria? If you think back to high school biology, they call “mitochondria” the “powerhouse of the cell.”