Recently a beloved Ninja (hi Judy!) asked me for the lowdown on balancing fitness modalities.


“How should one balance HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) vs weight training vs steady state cardio?

This is a GREAT question. And many people get this wrong.

Here’s how to think about this…

1) High Intensity Interval Training

HIIT is a method of training that alternates short periods of all-out intensity with longer periods of lower intensity and recovery. The classic formula here is 10 rounds of 30 seconds of all-out sprinting followed by 90 seconds of lower intensity jogging.

HIIT can indeed do some wonderful stuff. In the right doses, it can have powerful anti-aging effects. But for most humans, it’s usually best done only 1-3x per week. If the volume gets much higher, joints will start to break down;  particularly if there are higher impact modalities involved (think running, jumping, etc.). Joints aside, after a tipping point of volume, the body will start to actually have a negative response. This is why I’m not a huge fan of many boutique models that only offer HIIT and invite clients to train five times per week, week in and week out.

Most of MFF’s Small Group Personal Training programs include a 5-10 minute finisher. This gives you a moderate dose of HIIT goodness without overdoing. It’s also time efficient, as these sessions also give you the magic of weight training (more below).

NOTE: This is also not the best modality to dive into when one is starting or restarting an exercise regime. Best to give yourself some time to ramp up. More details HERE.

2) Strength Training 

Thoughtfully loaded and well-executed weight bearing exercises are our preferred foundation for fitness. Depending on the movement and your fitness level, this type of exercise can include both weight training AND bodyweight training. While more isn’t necessarily better, this kind of training can be meaningful even 1x per week, and can be done as often as 4-5x (provided volume and intensity are modulated).

When done with good technique and a full range of motion, strength training:

  • Builds and maintains muscle, strength, and power
  • Improves bone density
  • Increases movement skill
  • Improves joint health
  • Supports fat loss and muscle retention when dieting

A good strength training program will also include variation in movements. This provides more mental variety AND a lower risk of joint overuse injuries. This style of training is the heart of MFF’s Small Group Personal Training programs.

For most people most of the time, we like traditional strength training with adequate rest as the base. However, when submaximal weights are used with incomplete rest periods, it can create a powerful cardiovascular training effect. The lower loads and brisk rest periods do blunt some of the strength-building stimulus. Nonetheless, this kind of training can be an amazingly time effective way to keep your heart healthy while getting many of the benefits of traditional weight training. Provided you use good form, you can get a MASSIVE bang for your buck.

This type of training is sometimes called “Metabolic Resistance Training.” This is a fancy way of saying “strength training designed to burn calories/disrupt your metabolism.” We use this approach for MFF’s In-Person Group Fitness Classes, our Snatched classes and our highly-popular, totally at-home, virtual HomeBody Classes.

My highly biased, absolute personal favorite workout mix for most humans looking to be as fit as possible with the best bang for their buck: 2x Small Group Personal Training and 1x-2x MFF In-Person or Virtual Classes per week.

3) Steady State Cardio

When we use the term “steady state” cardio, we’re referring to lower intensity, longer duration cardio exercise. This is usually done with some kind of cardio machine (elliptical, treadmill, cycle, etc.) for 20-60 minutes at a time.

When done in the appropriate volume for one’s goals and fitness, this kind of cardio can be valuable for improved heart health, increased total movement, and even improved recovery and cognition. The key here is keeping the total weekly volume reasonable and ideally utilizing a non-impact modality (think brisk incline walking vs the repetitive pound of jogging).

This kind of training doesn’t usually require lots of technical coaching or fancy programming. However you may want to use a heart rate monitor so you can stay at 60-70% of your max heart rate. If you go too low — or too high! — you won’t get the benefits you’re looking for.


There you have it. I hope you find this pithy rundown helpful!

You’re my very favorite lift,

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