Your Cart

The heart rate during a training session, illustrating steady state cardio training done at the beginning of the workout (for a warm-up)

Steady State Cardio Training

Aug 30, 2022

Eric Evans

Steady state training is a cardio-based, endurance boosting, calorie burning workout with many benefits. Steady state training is done at an easy-to-moderate tempo that’s held for 4-6 minute intervals. A complete steady state workout consists of 4-6 intervals with 1:00 – 1:30 active recovery intervals between working intervals. In the image above, it's the first part of the workout.

The key to a steady state cardio workout is to keep your heart rate at a moderately-high level for the duration of the interval - you are aiming for 65-70% of your max heart rate. If you don’t have a way to monitor your heart rate or haven’t gotten your training heart rates dialed in, don’t worry, there’s other ways to get your effort at the right level. The RPE (1-10) scale is another way to determine the right effort level. On the 1-10 scale, your efforts should be a 6/10 (6 out of 10) with 10 being maximum effort at the highest level possible during your steady state intervals. And there’s another way to figure out what intensity level you should be at - it is the Talk Test. Yes, you read that correctly – the Talk Test. During a steady state workout, you should be able to carry a conversation for only about the first minute of each interval. If you are still talking comfortably during minutes 2 & 3 of a steady state interval, you’re not working hard enough…pick it up!

There are several benefits of doing steady state cardio training.

  • SS training produces those feel-good endorphins we all crave and doesn’t come with too much discomfort. It’s beginner- and user-friendly.
  • It fits you – right now. You don’t have to have a minimal level of fitness to do a steady state cardio workout. Whether you’re a seasoned triathlete, a competitive weightlifter or just starting out, you can complete a steady state workout. It literally doesn’t matter!
  • It’s great for improving and enhancing your endurance. SS training improves endurance without much stress. Your cardio fitness will improve doing steady state cardio training. This is important because oxygen is used to break down body fat away from exercise.
  • Steady state training promotes recovery. As I discussed in another post, active recovery should be built into all your training regardless of the training cycle you’re in – steady state training could be part of your active recovery workout(s).

Check out this sample steady state cardio workout, done on a treadmill:

For this steady state workout done on the treadmill, start at a comfortable pace (3.0 mph). Increase the intensity each minute (you can do this by increasing the grade / incline, the speed, or both). Remember what the intensity is when you get into your SS working intervals. Where you leave off at the end of your warm-up is the intensity you come back to for the active recovery between working SS intervals. At the end of your workout, walk it back by reversing your warm-up!

There is an ideal time during your training cycles to mix in steady state cardio training, it’s built into our training cycles.

Sign up for our In The Lab newsletter to get more training tips, workouts, program offers, and a wealth of information on how to “Go Beyond Your Limits”!