HIRT stands for High-Intensity Resistance Training and if you want to know more about what a HIRT Training program is and its major benefits, you have come to the right place. You can use the list below to help you navigate the information:
- What Is HIRT anyway? Is it similar to HIIT?
- Benefits of the HIRT Training Program
- What Equipment You Will Need
- How To Structure a HIRT Workout
- Other Important Aspects
- HIRT Training Program Workout Example
What is HIRT anyway? Is it similar to HIIT?
If you follow fitness trends, you might already know HIIT – High-Intensity Interval Training. It has been glamorized for years now and used mostly by women in their efforts to lose weight.
HIIT, when used right, does have some benefits – it is one type of exercise that can really boost weight loss. But the point here is “when done right”. Most studies on HIIT assume the exercises are done with extremely high intensity – to levels most home athletes can not achieve easily. And in the effort to get there, it might even lead to injuries, especially because of the excessive focus on jumping moves.
HIRT training programs are a bit different. It is not new, but thankfully it is getting more attention recently which is very positive. Because HIRT focuses on high-intensity RESISTANCE training. And that is the key difference.
While HIIT is mostly cardio focus, HIRT is resistance focus, which means less jumping around and more focus on the form.
The high-intensity factor on HIRT is based on the use of circuits to perform the exercises and not on the speed you do them.
So, instead of doing things as fast as possible, you will use more or less the same pace as traditional strength training. But instead of having long rest periods while doing sets, like when you do, for example, 3 sets of the same exercises with pauses in between, you will work in circuits.
You will alternate exercises and muscle groups so you can do them without rest. You can only rest after finishing the whole circuit – but only for about 60 seconds.
This can be done because while you do one exercise, most of the muscles you used in the previous one are temporarily resting, allowing you to focus your efforts on the ones that are not yet tired.
Benefits of the HIRT Training Program
The main benefit of a HIRT training program is the combined benefits on muscle development and high-calorie expenditure. Making this probably the best training program for fat loss and improved body composition. But let’s get to the details:
More energy consumption
This type of training will require more calories for the same amount of time as traditional weight training. The best part? You will keep burning calories even after your workout is complete.
That is why this is the best training for weight loss in my opinion (together with its other benefits). Plus, because this is resistance-based (and not cardio-based) you will be able to keep increasing the difficulty in the same amount of time.
Increased muscle mass
Because the basis of this training is on resistance exercises, this means you will eventually gain some lean mass. Now, if you are a woman reading this, please do not freak out, this does not mean you will get bulky.
But it does mean you will require more calories just to support that new muscle mass as a result. Which is great because you will be able to eat more – who does not want that?
Less time working out
For me, this is one of the crucial benefits of HIRT and the main reason I prescribe it to a lot of my clients. After all, who has the time to work out 60+ minutes several times a week? I am a personal trainer and I do not have that kind of time. And I know most people do not have it either.
By reducing rest times, we can reduce the overall time of workouts without removing the “work”. Think about this.
A typical strength training workout with 6 exercises has around 17 minutes of rest (1 minute after each exercise is performed, using 3 sets for each). That is a valuable time to be wasted around resting right?
A similar workout applying HIRT principles will be made in a circuit with a small rest period after each set. For 3 sets this sums 2 minutes – the last one is already the end of the workout.
That is 15 minutes we can save. Meaning a HIRT training can be accommodated in something like 20 minutes. Sweet, right?
It still trains your cardio
HIRT can increase your VO2 max, which measures how efficient your body is at using oxygen during an exercise. Basically, you are training your aerobic endurance.
If you do not like cardio, this is a great alternative because you will still get some of the benefits due to the high intensity without actually doing it.
Low impact – easier on the joints
Although all exercises have risks, HIRT can be considered a bit safer than other high-impact alternatives because it is focused on the form and not on the speed.
Plus, it can be entirely made without jumps, as most exercises’ goal is to improve strength.
(Also, I do not advise anyone new to fitness to start with plyometrics – jumping exercises. Unfortunately, that is something I see a lot on beginners’ plans, especially for women. But if you are not prepared those exercises can easily lead to injuries, so be aware.)
It is more fun than strength training
This one is mostly for the ladies. I say this because most men do not care that much about the rest periods. But I have noticed most of my female clients find traditional strength training super boring. Even more when doing it alone.
So, the good: you will not have this problem with HIRT’s faster pace. You might actually feel you want those breaks after all.
What Equipment You Will Need
This is probably the only real drawback of a HIRT training program, as it does require (or at least benefits from having) some equipment. It does not have to be a lot but in order to improve you need to have something that creates resistance.
There are some options:
These are the ones that you can do without equipment. The resistance is your own body weight.
The only problem is that you will get stronger (which is a good thing), but you will need to make exercises harder as time goes by. That can be made in a lot of different ways, but adding weight is usually the more straightforward.
Some alternatives include adding more repetitions or circuits/rounds, making exercises a bit slower, adding a “pause” in the middle of the exercise, or changing to a different (harder) exercise variation. All of those, with exception of the last one, requires something most of us do not want to expend: time.
Dumbbells or Kettlebells
The most effective and versatile type of resistance is probably free weights – either dumbbells or kettlebells.
However, they do come with some disadvantages. You might need to keep buying more weights as you improve (although this of course takes time) and they are, well, heavy! Not so easy to just take them and exercise somewhere else. And this brings me to the next best alternative.
Bands are not the coolest equipment, but they do their job well. Plus, they are cheap and portable. Even if you need to buy several that is not a major concern (some also come in packs). But the best part is that you can take them anywhere.
Do you like to work out in the park? Bring the bands with you. Need to travel for work? They fit in your suitcase easily.
How To Structure a HIRT Workout
For me, the best way to structure a HIRT training program is by selecting 4 to 6 exercises that focus on multiple muscle groups at the same time which usually includes the major muscle groups – what is usually called compound exercises, you can find more detail on my guide on body composition exercises).
This is how you structure it then:
Organize the exercises
The first step is to organize the exercises in a way that you switch major muscle groups from one exercise to the other, meaning you do not use the same muscle in consecutive exercises. This will allow you to rest properly, although continuing to work out.
Select the number of sets
At first, you will want to keep the workouts short. Especially if you are not used to strength training.
I would aim to 20 minutes tops – which is around 3 circuits/rounds. But feel free to do only 2, if necessary, on the first week. It is super important you do not over-exhaust yourself in the beginning.
Other Important Aspects of a HIRT Training Program
Make sure to warm-up well before starting. Again, this does not need to be a run or jumping around kind of warm-up.
Warm up your joints with some repetitive movements and do some low resistance repetition of the movements you will do in your training. For example, if you are doing a goblet squat in the workout, do some bodyweight ones first to get the blood flowing and “train” the movement before adding the weight.
The whole purpose of this training type is to reduce the resting periods to increase intensity without needing high impact. So, do not rest between exercises, only after the end of the set. And keep the rest time short – 60 to 90 seconds maximum.
While rest time should be short, recovery after the workout should be longer. Ideally 48 hours between training sessions, but at least 24 hours without a doubt.
While you can do other activities (like a small run or a yoga class), do not do this kind of training 2 days in a row. You will exhaust yourself and hurt your progress.
And make sure you are using the proper form during all exercises. This is super important, and I cannot stress this enough.
HIRT does not focus on speed. It focuses on form. If you are not sure you are doing things right, please hire a personal trainer (it does not need to be me!). I mean it, it is the most important thing if you are unsure about this aspect.
Bad form can make your workouts less effective, but that is not the worse part. It can lead to injuries. BE SAFE, PLEASE!
HIRT Training Program Workout Example
This is a full-body workout example that you can try to see if this is a kind of training program you enjoy:
Do the following exercises as a circuit (one after another) without rest in between. After finishing the round rest for 60 seconds and repeat for 3 to 4 rounds:
- Push-Ups 10 reps
- Goblet Squat 12 reps
- Unilateral Dumbbell Row 10 reps (each side)
- Deadlift 12 reps
Goblet Squat Demonstration:
Unilateral Dumbbell Row Demonstration:
Stay strong. Get to the top.
If you want to know more about my approach, try my FREE training guide that focuses on the use of HIRT.