High-Intensity Resistance Training: Should You Try It?
High-intensity resistance training (often referred to as HIRT) brings strength training into high-intensity training. In high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you move quickly from one cardio exercise to the next to keep your heart rate high.
High-intensity resistance training focuses on high-intensity exercises done against resistance, to strengthen and build lean muscle. The workouts are still intense and high-energy, focusing on the number of reps and lifting weights with correct form.
This style of working out has been around since the 1970s, but it has recently gained popularity as an effective way to stimulate the fitness adaptations that many of us want from our workouts!
What is high-intensity resistance training?
High-intensity resistance training is a style of training where you perform short, intense, and highly-focused blocks of resistance training, with a short recovery period between each block of work.
The workouts can be structured as circuits, with a series of strength exercises completed without rest, followed by a short break before the next circuit. You can do full-body workouts or focus on the upper body or lower body in these sessions.
You probably won’t want to focus on a single body part — for example, shoulders — in a high-intensity workout as this would be very tough! A HIRT workout for one body part would also put you at risk of over-training.
Benefits of high-intensity resistance training
High-intensity resistance training is a very effective training style that you can try in SWEAT Trainer Chontel Duncan's FIERCE program. Here’s what makes the workouts so powerful:
Boosts resting energy consumption
When comparing high-intensity resistance training to traditional resistance training, HIRT is found to result in higher resting-energy consumption after the workout is completed.
Workouts are short and effective
Many people find it hard to find time to workout. High-intensity resistance workouts are highly effective and take less time than a full resistance workout, which makes it easier to fit into your day.
Increased fat oxidation
High-intensity resistance workouts increase resting energy expenditure, which in turn affects the fat-burning hormones in the body to increase fat oxidation. When you do HIRT, you increase your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) as your body works to recover from training. This means you burn more energy and your body is more likely to break down stored fat.
High-intensity resistance training can increase your overall fitness, including your aerobic endurance or VO2 max. VO2max is a measure of how efficiently your body takes up oxygen during exercise.
Increase lean muscle and strength
Strength training stimulates ‘hypertrophy’ or increased muscle growth. As the muscles become denser they also become stronger. This is a common fitness goal — and HIRT delivers!
Benefits of combining cardio and strength training
If you enjoy strength training but don’t like cardio, HIRT is a way to do both at once! This style of training is also ideal for anyone who is short on time and can’t fit in all of their cardio and strength workouts for the week.
Low impact options
Many HIIT workouts include plyometric exercises with high impact and plenty of jumping to get your heart rate up. HIRT focuses on resistance training. You can select exercises for your workout that don’t have a high impact on your joints and still experience the benefits of high-intensity training.
Train at home or at the gym
A high-intensity resistance workout doesn’t necessarily require gym machines. You can do a workout using your bodyweight, dumbbells, kettlebells and resistance bands!
Workouts can be done alone
You won’t need a partner to do these workouts, but you can do them with a friend if you want to make your workout social!
Workouts aren’t boring
These workouts require you to be focused and engaged — there’s no time to get bored! In fact, many people find that they stick to high-intensity resistance training more than traditional weights training.
Risks of high-intensity resistance training
As this is a form of high-intensity training, you need to have a base level of fitness before you start.
High-intensity resistance training can be included once or twice a week to reduce the risk of overtraining which can lead to injury. You should allow at least 48 hours between these workouts for your body to recover.
Tips for high-intensity resistance training
If you’re keen to try high-intensity resistance training, here are some tips to make your workout effective and enjoyable!
With any intense workout, playing powerful beats can help you to maintain your focus. A motivating workout playlist is a must for high-intensity workouts, so grab your headphones and find your favourite workout songs before you start.
Keep it short at first
A high-intensity resistance workout can be as short as 12 minutes or as long as 40 minutes. If you are new to this style of training, start with shorter workouts and increase the length as your body adapts.
A warm up is important to get the blood flowing to your muscles before every workout. Include a few minutes of cardio and some dynamic stretching to prepare your body for the workout.
Focus on form
During the ‘work’ period of high-intensity workouts, you need to be 100% focused. Choose exercises that you are familiar with already so you can maintain correct form throughout the workout, even as you start to get tired.
If you want to add a new exercise into your high-intensity resistance workout, practice it first to make sure you have the correct form before increasing the intensity.
Go for max effort
For a high-intensity workout to be most effective, the ‘work’ periods need to be done near your maximal effort. This is your maximum effort, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Complete the exercises at the maximum pace you can maintain while still focusing on maintaining proper form.
Keep your rests short
Allow for rest periods of 30-60 seconds between each work period — this is enough time for your body to recover, and you’ll reap the benefits of keeping the intensity high.
You can take a shorter rest for a short workout, but for a longer workout, allow for a longer rest of 1-2 minutes so you can sustain the effort and correct technique for the whole session.
Allow time to recover
We don’t recommend doing high-intensity resistance training everyday! Depending on what other training you are doing, allow three or four days to recover between sessions, and remember to listen to your body. You might schedule some active recovery on your rest days, or incorporate other training styles like low-intensity cardio.
How to use high-intensity resistance training to reach your goals
If you are looking to change up your fitness routine or you’ve been struggling to find a workout style that fits into your schedule, high-intensity resistance training might be what you’re looking for.
Trying a new training style can help you to maintain your fitness motivation, and if you haven’t found an exercise style you love, this might be it!
What’s your favourite training style? Share it with us in the comments!
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.