No but really, is hiit or weights better for weight loss?
Well, luckily you have clicked on the right article to find the answer to that.
When talking about losing weight and exercise, the general consensus is that the more calories you burn per session the more you weight you are going to lose.
This would mean that since hiit is going to burn more calories, it will make it the superior weight loss exercise.
At least, that is what we think, right? We can stop the article now and go start jumping around like kangaroos?
Hold on now.
Weight lifting builds lean muscle mass which allows your metabolism to be higher. This makes it so you are burning more calories all day long and for the duration of your life, not just in your 30 minute hiit session.
It looks like we are in a pickle, huh?
Don’t worry, by the time you get done reading this article you will know the answer to is hiit or weights better for weight loss.
Just make sure you don’t skip a beat here. Follow along. Got it?
Let’s dive in.
Is Hiit or Weights Better For Weight Loss?
Consider This When Comparing If Hiit Or Weights Is Better For Weight Loss….
I mentioned above that hiit cardio burns more calories short term, but weight lifting burns more calories long term by increasing your metabolism.
Therefore essentially they can both be used as a tool to help you in your weight loss journey.
Yet I want to take this a step further and go beyond just a “weight loss” journey.
Whenever I get someone onboarded to my online coaching program whenever their goal is weight loss I ask them this one question.
“So, would you say you won’t be happy until you see the scale read x number, or is it more about looking a certain way?”.
Every single time the response “Well, I want to look a certain way “.
Therefore I am not going to just talk about weight loss in this article when comparing hiit or weights, I am going to take the stance of what is going to be the most optimal to allow you to look and perform the best possibly can.
Aka, look great naked and be strong.
I mean come on, that’s what it really is about right?
Let’s first cover how we lose body fat, then we will cover how you change the way your body looks.
Yes, those are two different things.
First, Weight Loss
When talking about losing weight let me make one thing very clear.
Losing weight is primarily done through making nutritional changes, not through exercising.
I am sure someone you know, or maybe even yourself, works out all the time consistently week after week but simply cannot get the scale to budge.
This is because you can never out train a bad diet.
The only way to lose weight is by creating something called a calorie deficit.
This is when you are intaking less calories than your body is burning. This process is the process that burns body fat off of your body.
Calories are simply a source of energy for our bodies. When you are intaking less energy than your body is burning, your body will need to find something to go to for energy.
When you have stored body fat on your body, this is what your body goes to in order to make up the difference. It burns your stored fat for energy, thus resulting in you losing body fat.
Again, this is mainly done through controlling your calorie intake rather than worrying about how many calories you burn, for a few reasons.
Number one it is much easier to track how many calories you eat and not so easy to track how many calories your body burns.
Those apple watches, fit bits, or treadmills at the gym do not accurately depict how many calories you are burning.
I know that may blow your mind but I did an entire podcast on this topic more in depth, which I will link HERE
Therefore you can’t be truly certain how many calories you are burning.
On the other hand, you can know how many calories you are eating.
Not only can you know how many you are eating, you can know how many you need to eat to lose weight.
If you want to know exactly how many calories to eat to lose weight, head to my free calculator HERE .
Last but not least, the math will just never work itself out.
It takes you 50 minutes to burn 500 calories, it takes you 5 minutes to eat 500 calories.
Unless you are planning on multiple hours everyday of cardio, ain’t gonna work.
This is why weight loss is primarily done through making nutritional changes. I encourage you to check out my calorie calculator above and start counting your calories.
Second, Changing The Way Your Body Looks
When it comes to the question of is hiit or weights better for weight loss we just talked about how nutrition is going to be the main driver of fat loss.
I mentioned losing body fat and changing the way your body looks are two different things and here is why.
You could lose all of the body fat you want. The issue here is, that won’t make you get that toned, lean, defined look you are going for.
Ever seen those people who are skinny fat?
They aren’t really overweight but they don’t look incredibly lean or aesthetic?
This is because they have not dove into they have not built the proper amount of lean muscle mass to allow them to look that way.
The only way to get that look you are searching for is through proper strength training and building lean muscle mass.
I know some people will say “ but I don’t want to get big and bulky like a bodybuilder!”.
Listen, you drive a car to and from work everyday don’t you?
Does that make you a Nascar driver? No? Alrighty then same scenario here.
Just because you lift weights does not mean you will turn into Arnold.
Trust me when I say I wish it was that easy because I would’ve been there and done that by now.
Proper Progressive Overload
We just learned that proper strength training and building lean muscle mass is the only way to get that toned and defined look.
Yet there is something that has to happen within that strength training program and that is called progressive overload.
In the terms of Wikipedia Progressive overload is a method of strength training that advocates for the gradual increase of the stress placed upon the musculoskeletal and nervous system.
This simply just means that over time you are doing more than you are right now.
If you are lifting 10 lbs for 10 reps and in 3 months you are lifting 15 lbs for 12 reps, that is progressive overload.
You are continuously putting a new stress on your body that your body has to adapt to.
Why is this important?
This is the only way you will see change in your body.
If you do not put a stress great enough on your body that your body has to adapt to, it is not going to change. It will now grow stronger more defined muscles because it has no reason to.
When you lift more weight, do more reps, do more sets, whichever, your body says “well crap, this is more weight than we lifted last time. I am going to have to make sure I can handle this. Let me grow these stronger more defined muscles in order to combat this stress and keep us alive”.
It is a flight or fight response.
On the other hand you do not put a stress great enough on your body to adapt, it is going to stay the same because your body wants to stay at homeostasis.
It will not need to grow stronger more defined muscles because there is no reason to. You are not providing a stress great enough to it to have to adapt therefore it will stay status quo.
Therefore this principle of progressive overload is not only paramount, but in reality the only way possible to change the way your body looks.
So, when it comes to the question of is hiit or weights better for weight loss?
I would reframe that to which form of exercise is the best to achieve progressive overload?
Let’s talk about that now.
Is Hiit Or Weights Better For Weight Loss?
Which Is Better For Progressive Overload?
I want to break down 3 different crucial components of exercise.
Intensity, technique of exercises, and progression within progressive overload.
Let’s break down each one and talk about whether hiit or strength training is better for each.
First off let’s define intensity.
Intensity is often confused as how “hardcore” the workout is, how much you sweat, or how out of breath you are.
That is an emotional, non objective, and unproductive way of thinking about it.
Intensity will be referred to as the amount of weight lifted closest to your one rep max.
So for example, if on a deadlift your 1 rep max is 100lbs, lifting 80lbs woulds be 80% of your 1 rep max, leading to an 8/10 or 80% intensity.
In regards to building muscle and achieving this progressive overload we talked about, having a high intensity is necessary to see progress and change.
If your intensity is not high enough, then you will not be putting enough stress on your body for your body to adapt to it.
Comparing hiit vs strength training, one thing stands out the most.
When you are doing a hiit workout, you are constantly moving non stop.
You are normally moving from one exercise to the next, getting 10-30 second breaks, and keeping your heart rate up as much as possible.
Prior to reading what was just above, you may have thought this was super “intense”!
If you were sweating buckets and out of breath crawling on the ground that was intense!
The only problem is when you look at actual and objective intensity, those workouts are normally not that intense at all.
For the simple fact that you are not able to reach a high enough intensity with your weights to see results.
You are not able to lift close enough to your proximity of failure.
When you are having 10, 15, 20 second breaks, you are not able to lift close to your maximum amount of load.
This is for many reasons. First being you are completely gassed and your body has not had adequate time to recover. If you are not fully recovered before going into the next set, you will not be able to lift anywhere near close to your maximum intensity.
I like to tell my clients think of it like going underwater and holding your breath for as long as you can.
Let’s say you hold it for a minute.
You come back up, take a 15 second break, barely catch your breath, then have to hold your breath for as long as you can again.
The second time because you are not fully recovered you will only be able to hold it for say 30 seconds this time.
Come back up, another 15 second break, then time to go again!
This time you hold it for 20 seconds.
You are not pushing towards your maximum limits each time due to the rest constraints.
This is the same thing when you are lifting weights.
You are taking such short rest times that you are simply not able to lift with enough intensity to elicit change in your body.
Compared to strength training, where you can take anywhere between 60-180 second rests, push your intensity during the set, let your body and central nervous system rest, and then get back to it again.
You will be able to actually push intensity more with longer rest times when you actually define what intensity truly is from an objective perspective, which will lead to better change in your body.
Which, over time, will allow you to apply the progressive overload principle and change the way your body looks.
Therefore when it comes to the question of is hiit or weights better for weight loss, for this scenario weights would take the crown.
Technique Of Exercises
Next let’s look into the second factor which is technique of exercises.
I am sure you have thought to yourself “by god I hope I am doing this right so I don’t get injured”.
It is a concern of all of us. Keeping proper technique is paramount when it comes to decreasing risk of injury.
Let’s look at which is better for maximizing your technique on your exercises.
First we can talk about hiit.
Again we bring up the rest time. In a lot of hiit, circuit style workouts the rest times are shorter to ensure your heart rate stays up higher for longer for the extra calorie burn.
The issue with this once again is you are completely gassed, so your form starts to deteriorate.
If you are always huffing and puffing for air and not allowing your boy to properly recover in between sets there is going to be some drop off in technique on exercises.
The more fatigued you get the more form drops off.
During typical hiit style workouts, this is an apparent downside, leading to a higher risk of injury.
Which let’s face it, if you are injured, you are not working out at all. Therefore you are burning no calories and seeing no results.
Beyond the increased risk of injury, often times that is not a big enough kicker for people to consider believe it or not.
That is why I will bring up this point, the better your form, the more maximum results.
Think about this.
If you are doing a bicep with 10 lbs, but you are using momentum to swing the weight up and down.
You are using your shoulders to jerk it up a bit and your hips to give you some momentum, are you really doing 10 lb bicep curls anymore?
Or are you doing like 5 lbs bicep curls, and 5 lbs weird hip thrusting momentum swings.
Therefore when it comes to actually developing stronger, more defined biceps and arms, wouldn’t it be fair to say that style of training is not the most optimal?
As opposed to if you took a proper rest period which allowed you to have proper form during the set, you would see better results from having proper form.
Yet again, on top of the fact you are having proper form, now you can apply the progressive overload principle once again leading to optimal changes in your body.
That means when it comes to technique of exercises and applying progressive overload, strength training takes the crown once more.
Progression Within Progressive Overload
When it comes to the question of is hiit or weights better for weight loss, I like to add this into the conversation.
Full disclosure this does not apply to every single hiit workout, but over my 4 years of coaching this is primarily what I have seen.
The normal hiit, circuit style training has an enormous amount of exercise variability.
Meaning that the exercises change incredibly frequently.
One week you are doing one workout, the next week you are doing a different, and the next week you are doing something different.
Let’s quickly think back to the principle of progressive overload.
You have to continuously provide a stress great enough on your body over a period of time that your body has to adapt to in order to see change in your body.
Therefore it would probably be a good idea to track that stress. Stress in this instance is the weight you lifted, sets you did, and reps you did for a particular exercise.
The issue with hiit workouts is if you are constantly changing workouts week to week, you cannot track to see if you are truly seeing progress or not.
For example let’s say one week in a workout you were doing goblet squats, next week you were doing barbell back squats, and the next week you were a reverse lunge.
Week 1 you did 40lbs for 8 reps on goblet squat, week 2 you did 100 lbs for 10 reps on barbell back squats, and week 3 you did 20lbs in each hand for 8 reps on reverse lunge.
While that is great you were able to track your weight for each exercise, what does that tell us?
There is no consistency in the movements. You can’t tell if you are putting more stress on the body over a period of time because your variables are not constant.
Now let’s take an example of a structured strength training program.
Week 1 you did 40 lbs on goblet squat for 8 reps, week 2 you did 40 lbs for 10 reps, and week 3 you did 45 lbs for 8 reps.
Well now you can see a clear progression there. You went from lifting 40lbs for 8 reps, to 45lbs for 8 reps.
This means you got stronger. You put a stress great enough on your body that your body had to adapt to it and grow stronger.
That is progress. That is progressive overload.
Yet if you are constantly changing variables, you won’t ever know if you are providing a stress great enough for your body to respond to or not.
Once again when it comes to is hiit or weights better for weight loss, I will have to say weights take the crown for a 3rd time.
3 strikes and you’re out!
Is Hiit Or Weights Better For Weight Loss : The Reality
I want to make this clear because I just seemingly spent the last 15 minutes bashing hiit workouts.
First and foremost I think something is better than nothing. If you doing hiit workouts is more than what you were doing before hand while also enjoying it, amazing and keep at it.
As well as if you are happy with your hiit workouts as well as the results you are seeing, then who am I to tell you any different.
This article is more for people who either want to the most optimal results or are not currently seeing results.
Second, I actually do believe there are scenarios where hiit workouts can be very beneficial.
If you only have a 15 minute window to workout, a hiit workout could be a great option for you.
Or if you do want to burn a few extra calories before your big vacation coming up, throwing in some hiit workouts isn’t gonna hurt at all.
That being said, this is how I like to explain it to people.
Think of hiit as your one night stand. Quick, gets the job done in the short term, but probably not going to be what sustains you for the rest of your life.
Think of strength training as your spouse for life. Steady, reliable, and the backbone of your entire existence.
Hiit cardio can be supplemented in, yet a structured strength training program should be the primary focus of your exercise routine.
When you prioritize it like that, I promise you will see great success.
As far as how many days per week of each, I would follow something like
Strength Training : 3-5x a week
Hiit Cardio : 0-2x a week
I did an entire YouTube video on how to set up your own strength training program, so feel free to head here to my channel to check that out.
As well as if you want 52 free workouts, head to the bottom of my page to get some free workouts from me to you :).
Beyond that, thank you for reading.
I hope this article helped clear up some things for you as well as give you some insight as to why.
Any questions or concerns feel free to drop them below I would love to hear from you.
4 Replies to “Is Hiit Or Weights Better For Weight Loss?”
I love it this awesome man I been following you for about 8 months I think but this amazing thank you
makes me so happy 🙂 Thank you so much for your support and just glad it can help 🙂
Great info as usual! Thanks Eric, you’re much appreciated.
thank you so much Sandy for your kind words 🙂 Just glad it can help 🙂
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