Interval Training Versus Steady State Training: The Facts

Posted by Shannon Clark on

If you are looking to get a great workout in, cardio is likely going to be part of the equation at some point or another. But, one thing that you need to ask yourself is what type of cardio should you be doing? 

Chances are, you’ve heard of two different types of cardio training: interval training and steady state cardio training. 

What’s the difference? And more importantly, which is best? 

Let’s go over the facts that you must know to make an informed decision. 

Interval Training 

Interval training is where you alternate between brief bouts of all out intensity with active rest periods in between. This type of training is ideal for those who have a base level of fitness behind them, so not for the beginner. 

The intervals will usually last for anywhere between 15-60 seconds while the active rest periods will last twice as long. This is repeated 5-10 times to complete the workout session, along with a warm-up and cool-down being performed. 

Let’s look at the pros and cons of this type of training. 


  • Short in duration, usually lasting only 20-25 minutes
  • Burns lots of calories while doing the workout as well as boosts your metabolic rate for up to 48 hours after the workout is over
  • Is ideal for increasing your fitness level
  • May help to improve strength and power, especially if working against resistance (such as with spin cycling)
  • Is less boring for most people 


  • Is very taxing on the body – if you do too much of this, it could quickly lead to overtraining
  • Is not for the beginner
  • May lead to injuries if you are not careful
  • Cannot be done on an empty stomach as the body needs glucose in the system to fuel this type of activity
  • Some users may find the intensity a bit uncomfortable 

Steady State Cardio Training 

The next type of training that you’ll need to know about is steady state training. As the name suggests, this type of training is where you simply hop on the cardio machine and exercise at the same intensity for 30-60 minutes. Usually it’s a moderate to low intensity so that you can maintain it for the longer duration of time. 

Let’s go over the pros and cons of this form of training. 


  • Can easily be done by beginners
  • Can be used on an empty stomach or a very low carb diet
  • Is not taxing on the body, so will not increase your risk of overtraining all that much
  • Burns a moderate amount of calories while you are doing it. 


  • May lead to overuse injuries due to the repetitive motion
  • Does not increase your fitness level all that much
  • Many users find it very boring to perform
  • Does not offer any sort of metabolic enhancement to increase total fat loss
  • May increase your appetite and lead to greater hunger. 

Which Should You Do? 

All in all, if you want results and can do interval training, it is the training to do. It will, hands down, deliver superior fat loss minute per minute of exercise. 

This said, if you are new to exercise or are you are already doing multiple intense weight lifting workouts per week and simply can’t add any more intense interval cardio workouts as well, then chances are, you would do better with steady state cardio training. 

All in all though, don’t expect miraculous results from this form of training. As soon as you can bump it up and do some intense interval training, do so.