LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) | What is that? The Things To Know

By the healthiergang writer , student in Pharmacy.


LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) is a particular type of aerobic exercise part of the large family of Steady State Training (SST, in the language of your country "training in a constant state"), training methods in which you try to keep your heart rate constant, and therefore the intensity of the exercise.

Due to this essential characteristic, SSTs differ from all those workouts which instead provide for varying, in a more or less cyclical way, the intensity of the exercise, as in the case of "Interval Training".

General characteristics

Steady State Training is based on two fundamental variables:intensity and volume.

Il volume is represented by the duration of the workout, which is usually at least 20-40 minutes. Instead, as we mentioned in the introduction, theintensity exercise is kept constant, and generally measured by heart rate, which must be kept within so-called "intensity bands".

The latter are often referred to as “Training Zones” and are calculated as percentages in relation to the maximum heart rate (HRmax or HRmax).

  • 1 Zone (very light training): between 50 and 65% of the max HR; it is defined "capillarizing zone" as it would exert a toning and strengthening action on blood vessels; it is the ideal band for those who are poorly trained or need to do rehabilitation, or simply for those who want to keep fit with a mild but effective activity.

  • 2 Zone (light training): between 65 and 75% of HR max; it is the so-called "lipolytic band" in which there should be a greater consumption of lipids, rather than carbohydrates; however we cannot simplistically state that, by keeping the beats constant in this range, we will have a greater consumption of fat; this depends on countless factors, such as our level of training. In fact, there can be important differences between what is the "lipolytic band" of a professional athlete and that of an amateur.
  • 3 Zone (moderate training): between 75 and 85% of HR max; it is, indicatively, the best range for strengthening one's cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory abilities, as well as one's endurance.
  • 4 Zone (intense training): between 85 and 90% of HR max; it is a range in which the anaerobic lactacid system is mainly involved, and is therefore recommended for well-trained athletes who want to improve their sprint and their athletic condition in general.
  • 5 Zone (maximum training): between 90 and 100% of the max HR; is the range of the alactacid threshold, in which the alactacid anaerobic system acts; corresponds to the maximum training intensity, and can only be maintained for short periods.

To keep our heart rate constant, it is essential to do the exercise with the same intensity. However, depending on the exercise we practice, it could be more or less complicated.

In this sense, cardio machines can prove to be particularly usefulIn fact, these, in addition to measuring our heart rate, can be set to vary the difficulty of the exercise based on the variations of our beats, thus preventing us from leaving the desired range. However, SST can also be performed outdoors, or in the pool; in these cases a good heart rate monitor will be particularly helpful.

Calculation of the HRmax

There are several formulas for calculating your HRmax, some more reliable than others. The most used because of its extreme simplicity is the Karvonen formula, which obviously has a certain margin of error, but it is also the most practical and immediate to apply:

HRmax = 220-age (in years)

More precise than the previous one is the Hirofumi Tanaka equation:

HRmax = 208- (0,7 x age)

However accurate a formula may be, the returned value will always be indicative; for an exact measurement of the HRmax it is necessary to undergo a maximal test, in which the intensity of the exercise is brought to the extreme of the athlete's abilities.

The LISS workout

Historically, LISS training was devised as an aerobic training technique in the 20s, reaching widespread popularity in the 60s and finally nowadays.

As we said, it is a low intensity workout; in fact the goal is to keep the heart rate in a range corresponding to the zones 1 and 2 described above; highly trained athletes can however opt for a slightly higher heart rate range, between 70% and 80%.

It is a system that lends itself well to long-lasting workouts, and the reduced intensity makes it safe and practicable even by poorly trained and elderly subjects. It is less stressful on the cardiovascular and respiratory levels than other techniques, but it could be boring, and wearing on the joints.

How to set up a LISS workout

Setting up a LISS workout is relatively simple.

  1. You choose the desired intensity and volume; for example: total duration 40 minutes, with an intensity equal to 70% of the HRmax.
  2. Then we start with a warm-up of at least 5-10 minutes; it can be used, in the final seconds, to reach the desired intensity.
  3. We proceed with the actual LISS training, for the set duration.
  4. A 5-10 minute cool down is carried out.
  5. It ends with 5-10 minutes of rational stretching.
  6. It is repeated 3 (or more) times a week.

Some athletes are used to varying machinery during a LISS workout, to provide a different stimulus to their body and to break the monotony that a constant and protracted workout could entail.

Regardless of our general athletic level, let's not forget to take precautions before starting a LISS workout. For example, let's wear proper footwear and warm up properly. We also do not forget to constantly hydrate ourselves in the course of our activity.

Benefits of LISS

I benefits of LISS training are manifold: it allows to improve the health of our cardiovascular and respiratory system, to improve one's aerobic endurance, to stimulate type 1 (slow) fibers, and to promote weight loss.

The latter is a very complex physiological process, conditioned by numerous factors, first of all the caloric balance.

Although the workout you raise your calorie needs, it is good to remember that there are no "slimming" activities or exercises; however, there are methods that, as part of a diet designed for the reduction of body fat, can facilitate and improve the lipolytic processes.

Over the years, numerous studies have been carried out whose purpose was to evaluate which type of training was able to improve body composition more than others. In particular, many authors have compared SST workouts (and therefore also LISS training) with HITT workouts.

The results of these studies ([1], [2], [3]) showed that although LISS training (or more generally Steady State training) was significantly effective in promoting a reduction in body fat, HIIT protocols are better for this purpose.

So if we are following a low-calorie diet e we wanted to "accelerate" the weight loss process, LISS training undoubtedly represents an effective method, to be combined with weight training or possibly HIIT training.

Ma if our athletic level is particularly high, we could opt directly or mainly for HIIT, adding a few LISS sessions to vary and provide our body with a different stimulus.


Any form of physical exercise, done correctly and chosen according to your needs and health conditions, has benefits for our body.

As we all know, in fact, the two fundamental pillars for the well-being of our body are nutrition and physical activity.

LISS training is a particularly useful technique, whose main advantage is that it can be used by most people, even by the less prepared subject, who will be able to train with initially very low intensities, and then vary them in relation to their progress and goals.

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