HIRT: High-Intensity Resistance Training – What Is It?

High-intensity resistance training (HIRT) is a gentler form of high-intensity interval training. HIRT adds strength training to high-intensity training, while HIIT typically involves mostly cardio exercises that raise your heart rate with a few strength training exercises mixed in. 

HIRT workouts typically consist of high-intensity resistance exercises designed to build and strengthen muscle. It’s become more popular in recent years, but it’s been around for over five decades. HIRT is typically recommended for people who have some experience with strength training. Before making high-intensity resistance training part of your workout routine, you should understand how most of the basic strength training exercises are performed. 


How High-Intensity Resistance Training Works

students training with medicine ball

HIRT circuits are typically composed of exercises that involve performing intense, short, focused blocks of resistance training with short recovery periods between each station. They can also involve circuits of resistance exercises without any breaks between stations. You rest at the end of the circuit before moving on to the next circuit. 

A good HIRT circuit involves exercises that target different parts of the body since focusing on one part would make them extremely challenging. For example, getting through a circuit that targets your biceps, triceps, chest, and quads without any breaks is much easier than completing a circuit of four different exercises that target your biceps. If you opt for the first circuit, your muscles still get some rest even if you don’t take breaks between stations. HIRT workouts that only target one part of the body also increase your risk of overtraining. 

Some of the benefits of HIRT include:

  • Boost Resting Energy Consumption: High-intensity resistance training increases your resting energy consumption more than traditional strength training exercises. This means your body continues to burn calories at a higher rate long after you’ve completed your workouts, making it easier for you to shave off excess fat on your frame.
  • More Effective Than Traditional Strength Training: HIRT workouts are more time-efficient since you get a lot more done in the same amount of time. Traditional strength training typically involves taking a one-minute break after each set, while HIRT workouts often involve only resting after circuits or taking very short breaks of about 20 seconds between stations.
  • Increases Fat Oxidation: HIRT workouts increase your post-exercise oxygen consumption as your body recovers from training. It boosts fat-burning hormones in the body, increasing your body’s ability to oxidize fat.
  • Increases Your VO2 Max: High-intensity resistance training improves your aerobic endurance and VO2 max. This refers to how well your body uses up oxygen while exercising.
  • Increases Strength and Builds Lean Muscle: Resistance training stimulates muscle growth. It leads to muscles becoming dense as they grow stronger. As a bonus, you also get to improve your overall fitness while building a more impressive physique.
  • Combines Strength And Cardio Training: HIRT gives people who prefer strength training over cardio a way to do both simultaneously. Powering through circuits without taking breaks between stations forces your lungs and heart to work hard while your muscles get the stimulation they need for hypertrophy.
  • Low Impact Options: HIRT workouts are made up of mainly strength training exercises that put minimal stress on your joints, compared to HIIIT workouts that might involve activities like plyometrics, running, and jumping that can have a high impact on joints.
  • Great For Home Workouts: You don’t necessarily need gym machines for HIRT workouts. Bodyweight strength training exercises like pushups and equipment like resistance bands, kettlebells, and dumbbells are all you need to create effective HIRT circuits.
  • Keeps Workouts Enjoyable: HIRT workouts require you to be engaged and focus as you power through stations. That leaves you with little time to get bored. You don’t need to keep repeating the same circuit all the time either; you can change exercises at will to keep things interesting.


Getting The Most Out Of Your HIRT Workouts

WF-kettlebell overhead press

High-intensity resistance training increases your overall fitness, builds stronger muscles, and increases cardiovascular endurance. These workouts take a toll on your body, so try to limit your workouts to no more than three times per week. Rest for at least 48 hours between each HIRT session. 

Other things you can do to get the most out of your high-intensity resistance workouts include: 

  • Warm-Up: Warming up gets your blood flowing and prepares your muscles for more strenuous activity. It also helps to minimize delayed onset muscle soreness. Warm-up with some light cardio like jogging or riding a bike for five minutes. Exercises that target your abdominal muscles are also great for warming up.
  • Start Short And Build From There: A high-intensity resistance workout can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as 40 minutes. Take things easy when starting out and gradually work your way up.
  • Motivate Yourself With Music: Music is a secret weapon avid gym-goers are all too familiar with. Music helps maintain your focus in the gym, making your workouts more fun. Make a playlist of your favorite songs and use them to get into your workouts.
  • Maintain Good Form: Maintain proper form when going through your HIRT circuits since that allows you to get the most out of your workouts. Only add exercises that you’re already familiar with to your HIRT circuits. When it’s time to add new exercises, practice them until you get the form down before making them a part of your circuits.
  • Go All Out: The point of HIRT training is to push yourself as you complete your circuits. Don’t cheat by going through all your stations at a leisurely pace. Instead, try to complete each station as fast as you can with proper form, then move on to the next.
  • Keep Rest Periods Short: About 60 seconds of rest between each circuit is all you need. Remember, you want the workout to be intense. You don’t get that if you’re fully rested before starting each circuit.
  • Avoid Overtraining: HIRT workouts put lots of stress on your body, so make sure you rest for at least 48 hours between each training session. Rest for at least three days before training sessions when you’re just starting out.


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