Why a LIIT workout is the new HIIT

Most of us are familiar with HIIT – high-intensity interval training – short, sharp bursts of intense exercise. Now it’s time to get your head round LIIT.

You can probably guess what it stands for: low-intensity interval training. But how does it work? And can low and slow really boost your fitness? We asked Keith McNiven, founder of Right Path Fitness to explain.


What is different about a LIIT workout?

‘LIIT has the same benefits of HIIT but uses low-impact exercises so it is kinder on your joints, and a better option if you have knees or lower back problems. With a LIIT workout you also take longer breaks between exercises than with HIIT.’

Can it still improve your fitness levels?

‘You’re still doing the short bursts of exercise to increase your heart rate, so that means improved cardiovascular fitness, and stronger muscles. If you do LIIT regularly, then it can help you to achieve specific goals like fat loss and improved tone and shape.’

What types of exercise can be used for a LIIT workout?

‘So you could try swimming, performing each stroke in a controlled way, doing perhaps 5 laps of breast stroke then having a 2 minute break, then 5 laps of front crawl, another 2 minute break and so on until you’ve completed 5 sets- 25 laps in total. You can do the same with brisk walking.

‘HIIT exercises can be adapted to make them low impact, so instead of jumping jacks you’d do the following low impact version: start from a standing position, slowly move one leg to the side and lower into a squat, then repeat on the other side. After 20 in total you can rest for 2 minutes.’

How long should a LIIT workout last overall?

‘An average HIIT session is usually around 20-30 minutes but with LIIT you might take this up to around 45 minutes. This is just a guide though, and will vary depending upon individual fitness levels.’


From HIIT to LIIT: 3 moves you can adapt

HIIT Move: Jumping squat
LIIT Adaptation: Instead of the jump, as you come up from your squat, reach up and fully extend the whole body. Go up onto your toes. Make sure your arms are fully extended, and parallel with the rest of your body, shoulders down. Now sink down into your next squat.

HIIT Move: Running on the spot
LIIT Adaptation: Invest in a mini exercise trampoline or rebounder. Make sure it’s one designed for adult exercise, not a kids’ garden bouncer. Lots of exercises that are high-impact can be softened when injuries or painful joints are an issue.

HIIT Move: Scissor Jump
LIIT Adaptation: Try a mini-jump lunge. Start in a ‘soft’ lunge position (so your bottom knee doesn’t have to be so close to the floor). Then gently spring back from your lunge: keep your back foot on the floor, and bring the other to joint it briefly, as soon as you do step into a lunge on your other side. Build up a fast rhythm. This tutorial will show you how.