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HIRT 101: High-Intensity Resistance Training
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HIRT 101: High-Intensity Resistance Training

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on October 26, 2022
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7 min

High-intensity resistance training (HIRT) is a form of interval training that provides all the benefits of a HIIT workout while putting less stress on the body, making it more accessible for all athletic abilities.

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High-intensity interval training is a form of exercise that has grown increasingly popular because of its fat-burning potential.

And while some people are successfully using this exercise style to reach all their fitness goals, others find that it involves too much running and jumping and puts their body under more stress than it’s worth.

In this article, we do an in-depth analysis of HIRT vs. HIIT and explain more of the benefits of this unique interval training style.

What Is HIRT?

HIRT, also known as high-intensity resistance training, is a training style that combines the cardiovascular benefits of HIIT workouts with the muscle-building potential of strength exercises.

During HIRT workouts, you do long blocks of strength-training exercises followed by shorter rest intervals lasting around 60 seconds.

This workout style is most commonly done as a circuit with the rest periods following each set instead of each individual exercise, as is common with HIIT, though the rest period times for HIIT are only equal to the work periods, lasting 15–30 seconds.

Since HIRT is so intense, focusing on one major muscle group isn’t recommended. Instead, HIRT workouts should be structured full-body, preventing possible overuse injuries.

Is HIRT Good for Weight Loss?

High-intensity resistance training has significantly more weight loss potential, especially when compared to other traditional strength or resistance training methods. Just like HIIT workouts, HIRT is great for burning calories, especially in the form of stubborn belly fat.

HIRT workouts are also great for building larger muscle mass while also decreasing body fat. 

Since muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, having more lean muscle can contribute to more calories burned over time, both at rest and during your workouts.

The combination of a healthy diet with any new exercise routine is the best way to see results. If losing weight and making changes to your overall body composition is the goal of your HIRT workouts, then using meal plan apps like Perfect Body can help since they offer personalized plans for their users.

If you don’t like using apps, we would recommend testing out the Beyond Body book instead, which offers a similar personalized weight loss experience. 

Beyond Body
Prefect Body
4.8
4.4

No subscription fees (one-time payment)

International shipping for a hardcopy book

Easy-to-follow program with pictures and instructions

Beginner-friendly as it doesn’t make drastic changes to your eating habits

Includes a shopping list for all your ingredients

Great value for the price of a membership

Over 1,000+ recipes to choose from

Option to add training exercises to maximize results

All the ingredients for your meals are easily found in most grocery stores

Personalized Perfect Body meal plan created by nutritionists

Unsuitable for pregnant women

Might not be suitable for women who are breastfeeding or pregnant

No physical recipe books

No free trial

Brand
Beyond Body
Prefect Body
Rating
4.8
4.4
Pros

No subscription fees (one-time payment)

International shipping for a hardcopy book

Easy-to-follow program with pictures and instructions

Beginner-friendly as it doesn’t make drastic changes to your eating habits

Includes a shopping list for all your ingredients

Great value for the price of a membership

Over 1,000+ recipes to choose from

Option to add training exercises to maximize results

All the ingredients for your meals are easily found in most grocery stores

Personalized Perfect Body meal plan created by nutritionists

Cons

Unsuitable for pregnant women

Might not be suitable for women who are breastfeeding or pregnant

No physical recipe books

No free trial

How Does HIRT Work?

HIRT workouts can be performed either at home or in the gym, using only your body weight, resistance bands, or weights, depending on your current fitness level.

These workouts are done as circuits, with each circuit including 3–4 exercises lasting 2.5 minutes each, for a total of 10 minutes of “work” before taking a 1-minute break.

During your work periods, you should aim to work out at the maximum effort you can manage without sacrificing your form. Because of this, you can expect to fit in a full workout in between 30–45 minutes, making this an ideal exercise for anyone with a busy schedule. 

HIRT workouts can be tiring for the muscles, so it’s best to limit yourself to 2 workouts a week. You can focus on muscle recovery the rest of the time by doing active recovery exercises such as a recovery run

What Are the Differences Between HIRT and HIIT?

A hallmark of both HIIT and HIRT is the optimal range of your heart rate while exercising, which should be on the higher end of your maximum heart rate, somewhere between 75–90%. 

Aside from the cardiovascular benefits and the fact that both of these exercises are considered high-intensity interval training, the structure of the workout circuits and differing levels of impact between these two training styles makes them surprisingly different.

HIRT workouts

  • Combines cardio with strength 
  • Longer periods of work with shorter periods of rest; 10:1 ratio for work periods vs. rest intervals
  • Better for building large muscle mass
  • Usually done as circuit training
  • Burns a high amount of calories
  • Low impact on bones and joints

HIRT is better for people who are focusing on building bigger, stronger muscles, and since it is low-impact, it is also a better fit for people recovering from an injury or those who are overweight. 

HIIT workouts

  • Cardio-focused exercises
  • Equal periods of work and rest; 50:50 ratio for work periods vs. rest intervals
  • Effective for burning calories and visceral fat
  • Calorie burn continues after the workout
  • Often done as circuit training
  • High impact on bones and joints

High-intensity interval training is better for people who want to improve their cardiovascular health, and although it has high calorie-burning potential, it is also high-impact, making it unsuitable for anyone who suffers from joint issues. 

Whether you decide to try a HIRT workout or stick to a more traditional HIIT training schedule, ensure you give your body everything it needs to recover fully in-between sessions. 

Take 24–48 hours in-between workouts, aim to drink a gallon of water a day, and eat plenty of nutrient-rich foods high in protein. 

7 Benefits of HIRT

High-intensity resistance training has a long list of benefits. Some of these are common for any style of workout, such as an improvement to your mood; others, such as being low-impact, are more unique, especially for interval training. 

#1 Low-impact

In comparison to other HIIT workouts like running intervals, high-intensity resistance training causes significantly less stress on the bones and joints, making it more accessible to beginners and those not currently in the best physical shape.

Beginners, especially those working out when overweight, need to be careful not to take on too much too soon. 

Instead, progressive overload while doing HIRT, starting with resistance bands and moving to full-body workouts with weights, is a better way to slowly build strength. 

#2 Can be done quickly

HIRT is meant to be done at a challenging intensity, somewhere between 8–10 on a scale of difficulty. Because of this, these workouts can’t be done for long and should be finished well under an hour. Some of these weight training sessions are designed to last as little as 15 or 30 minutes.

This makes HIRT ideal for anyone working on a time crunch who doesn’t want to sacrifice the benefits of a high-intensity workout. 

#3 Improves your mood

Exercise of any kind is clinically proven to improve your mood by enhancing feelings of self-esteem and alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.

These changes happen partly through the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin and endorphins, which are released in response to our bodies undergoing stress. 

Endorphins are hormones that act on the opiate receptors in the brain, triggering a feeling that some would call euphoric.

#4 Combines cardio and strength training

Many workouts force you to choose between building muscle and optimizing cardiovascular benefits, but both of these are important for staying in optimal health. 

Elevating your heart rate can provide various cardiovascular benefits, including lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow. Increased muscle growth can enhance posture and reduce your risk of injury when doing other strength training. 

HIRT is an effective workout that combines the cardiovascular benefits of traditional HIIT with the benefits of strength training. 

#5 Offers versatile workout options

You can create high-intensity resistance training circuits with a variety of different resistance training exercises. This offers you the opportunity to target different areas of the body, depending on the exercises you choose to include.

A variety of workout options can be beneficial not only for strengthening the body but also for keeping your training schedule feeling fun and exciting. This can make a big difference in staying consistent in the long run. 

#6 Higher weight loss potential

High-intensity resistance training can include many exercises, including some that are full-body, which offer the most significant opportunity to burn calories and hopefully set yourself up for a daily calorie deficit. 

The more muscle groups you include in your exercises and the larger the group, the higher the number of calories it will take to fuel your movements. This number will continue to rise as you start working with heavier weights.

Doing high-intensity full-body exercises with heavy weights will set you up to burn through calories – mostly in the form of fat – and reach any weight loss goals you might have set for yourself. 

#7 Can be done at home

Investing in a small collection of resistance bands, medicine balls, and dumbbells for your home will give you the option to do your high-intensity resistance training without needing a gym membership.

This option is great for anyone who doesn’t live close to a gym or doesn’t have the money for a membership. It can also be helpful for people who find themselves tight on time and unable to make the commute elsewhere for their workouts. 

If you want to learn more about HIRT and its exercises check out this article: 10 HIRT Workouts (Programs) for Weight Loss

FAQs

Is HIRT better than HIIT?

Neither exercise is better, but each offers unique health benefits that will be better suited for some people.

HIIT is better for people focusing on cardio and strengthening their bodies for high-impact exercises. HIRT is better for beginners and anyone wanting a low-impact way to improve muscle growth. 

Is HIRT good for knees?

In comparison to other high-intensity exercises, HIRT is significantly better for the knees since it is designed to be low-impact.

Not only that but lifting weights helps strengthen the muscles surrounding the knees, offering them better support.

How long should HIRT last?

Most HIRT workouts should last 30–45 minutes.

Anything more will put too much stress on the body and could leave you at a greater risk of injury as your body gets tired and your lifting form starts to degrade. 

A Word From Our Coach

High-intensity resistance training, although great for the body, should be done in moderation.

Intense physical activity of any kind can be hard on the body because you trigger the fight or flight response and create small tears in your muscle fibers.

Both are not inherently bad, as one is responsible for the calm you feel after working out, and the other attributes to greater muscle mass. But too much of either can wreak havoc on your nervous system and cause your muscles to lose their strength.

Ensure you give yourself at least 24 hours between HIRT workouts, and if possible, treat yourself to a full 48 hours of low-intensity physical activity to recover.

Bottom Line

HIRT, a combination of cardio and lifting weights, is designed to give you all the health benefits of HIIT while being low-impact and better for your bones and joints than many other interval training styles.

Beginners should start with bodyweight exercises or use resistance bands to limit the stress on their muscles. As their strength increases, they can advance to heavier weights.

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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