LISS: a type of cardio exercise that has become popular and well-known due to the inclusion of it in Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide, but many still don’t know what it is, what activities count, or how long to do it. Especially those who have never done her program before! So here’s some facts.
What is it?
LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State cardio, and is when you maintain the same intensity/pace for a set period of time, generally 30-60 minutes for maximum results.
Within Kayla’s Bikini Body Guide (BBG), she recommends you complete 2-3 sessions of LISS during the first 4 weeks, 4-5 sessions during the next 4 weeks, and 3-4 sessions during the last 4 weeks.
Why do it?
LISS on its own will lead to a negative yield in lean muscle mass and basal metabolic rate. What this means is that while you do LISS, your body metabolizes fat for energy consumption. Consistently incorporating this into your routine will build your cardio endurance, while seeming like you aren’t pushing your body to its max.
If you only do LISS, and no other form of physical activity, your body will start to break down its own muscles as a source of fuel. While you may get lean, you will lose strength. This is why strength training and LISS together are so effective; you lean out while gaining strength.
Doing LISS after a training session actually aids in regeneration and the conditioning of muscles, and doing LISS after a HIIT session is especially effective, since HIIT accesses the stored and hard to burn fat, and LISS will metabolize it. LISS alone cannot access and break down stored fat.
How do I do it properly?
The key to LISS is your heart rate (and maintaining it for the duration of LISS). You want your heart rate to stay in the aerobic zone, which is 50%-70% of your max heart rate. The metabolization of fat requires oxygen, which is exactly what the aerobic zone is.
Calculating your max heart rate:
220 – your age = Max Heart Rate
So my max heart rate is 220 – 30 = 190
I use my Garmin Vivosmart HR to set my personal HR zones based on the below calculations:
Zone 1: 50% – 70% = LISS
Zone 2: 70% – 80% = Resistance
Zone 3: 80% – 90% = HIIT
My Tip? Invest in a heart rate monitor. I highly recommend getting one that tracks via your wrist and wear it all day/night. This all day tracking then will provide accurate readings during workouts, since it has learned your resting heart rate, and will continue to provide accurate readings. While wrist-based monitors aren’t as accurate as chest ones, the difference is due to the fact that you can (and should) wear it all day. Even if the rate isn’t as accurate as a chest rate monitor, it will be tracking your heart rate all day long, so the zones will be accurate, and that’s what matters.
Blog post about fitness trackers to come in the near future, but there are a TON of options available, in all different price ranges. Find one you can afford that fits your personal preferences.
My LISS Experience
Full disclosure? I didn’t do a lick of LISS during the first THREE rounds of BBG that I did. That’s 36 weeks of basically no cardio and only resistance training. I would walk on the treadmill for maybe 15 minutes for a cool down, but then I bailed. It’s boring guys, I won’t lie to you, but it’s so KEY to success. I think I actually would have had even more dramatic results had I bothered to do this. During my fourth round, I finally bothered to do it. I would usually just walk on the treadmill at a 1.0 incline, at a moderate speed, and started tracking my heart rate to make sure I was in the right zone. I would usually scroll through Instagram, catch up on Snapchat stories, and text my friends while I did this.
As I begin BBG again on Monday for the fifth time, I have made sure to schedule LISS into my week, 3 walking/stair climber/bike, and one swim per week. I’m not really looking forward to walking for 45 minutes, let’s be real, my mind is too busy to do the same thing that long, but I’ve learned a lot since those first rounds, and won’t be skipping it anymore.
I will bring my iPad to the gym which has Netflix on it, load my phone with podcasts, and use the time to unwind my mind. Find something that will keep you occupied enough to not get bored, but doesn’t require a lot of effort since your focus needs to be on your heart rate! Check in with that often!
Is yoga LISS?
In my experience, no. I have never been able to maintain a zone 1 LISS heart rate for a continuous 30-60 minutes in yoga.
What about fitness classes like barre, spin, boxing, pilates, etc.?
Again, for me, it’s a no. Heart rate and duration are the #1 key to effective LISS. In spin, I tend to reach zone 3 (HIIT) more than zone 1 (LISS). I also can’t maintain zone in any other fitness class that I have tried.
What does count?
Only steady, continuous cardio like walking, rowing, swimming, stair climbing, biking, and using the elliptical*.
The fitness sensation, and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, Kelsey Wells (@mysweatlife) has also come up with the brutally amazing #mysweatlifelissfromhell which is always an option for an extra challenge! Check out her LISS workout here.
*if you can find something other than the above that you are able to maintain a zone 1 heart rate for 30-60 minutes, it counts!