These days, the two magic words in weight loss are HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and weightlifting. HIIT combines the sky-high heart rate of a cardio workout but does it in short bursts of activity and rest — and you can do it with almost any kind of exercise, from cardio to strength training, so you can burn tons of calories even as you build muscle. Weightlifting doesn't always give you the same high heart rate — though it can — but it's the most effective way to build strong muscles and boost your metabolism, which helps you burn calories even after the workout is complete.
With all of this positive information floating around, it's easy to get overwhelmed and start wondering: well, which exactly is better? Between HIIT and weightlifting, what's the more effective choice to maximize your gym time and fat loss?
Both HIIT and Weightlifting Help You Lose Fat
Ashley Kelly, NASM, a personal trainer for Bach in New York and an Olympian in track and field, said that on its own, HIIT is more effective for fat burn than straight weightlifting. "HIIT increases and decreases the heart rate during the workout, helping you to maximize the number of calories you burn," she told POPSUGAR.
The truly potent fat-burning strategy, though, is combining the two of them, according to Stan Dutton, NASM-certified personal trainer and head coach for fitness app Ladder. "Weightlifting and cardio-based workouts, including HIIT, are both helpful on their own for losing weight, and even more effective when combined," he told POPSUGAR. He pointed out a 2012 study proving that both cardio (like HIIT) and resistance training were effective for losing weight but that the people who included both in their exercise routine had the best overall results in terms of weight loss, fat loss, and cardio fitness.
Cycling through the two workouts in your fitness schedule is recommended, and Ashley added that you can "absolutely" combine HIIT and weights in the same workout. Though typically seen as a cardio-based activity, weight-bearing HIIT is something she highly recommends. "These workouts promote muscle endurance, cardiovascular training, and [burning] fat," Ashley said — all staples of a good fitness routine, all in one workout. We love this HIIT-plus-weights workout that's specially optimized to target belly fat.
How Often Should I Do HIIT and Weightlifting to Burn Fat?
Stan recommended doing two to three days of weightlifting coupled with one to two days of HIIT and cardio. "Lifting weights will help you retain muscle while eating fewer calories and will help keep your metabolic rate as high as possible," he said. Cardio, meanwhile, is great for pure calorie burn and improving your endurance, which helps you maintain a faster pace during your weightlifting workouts. "Therefore it's actually better to combine the two," he explained.
Ashley agreed, advising that anyone looking to burn fat try to work out three to five days a week, doing a combination of strength training and HIIT workouts. Try this four-week workout plan that gives you just the right balance of weightlifting, interval training like HIIT, and endurance work.
And remember that, at the end of the day, "you can be successful doing weightlifting or HIIT, or both, so what really matters is your preference," as Stan told POPSUGAR. "That being said, you can't out-train a bad diet! So, make sure this workout schedule is paired with a healthy diet to maximize results." Check out our two-week clean-eating plan to kick-start your fat loss and give you the right fuel to crush your workouts, be they HIIT, weightlifting, cardio, or anything in between.