HIRT: High Intensity Resistance Training Guide

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In recent years, high-intensity interval training, more commonly referred to as HIIT, has stolen the metaphorical limelight in the fitness world.

HIIT workout classes dominate the lineup at many gyms and fitness facilities, and you can find all sorts of HIIT classes on popular workout apps and streaming platforms. 

From HIIT indoor cycling to HIIT treadmill workouts, it seems like there is a HIIT cardio workout for every type of exercise modality.

While there are many fantastic health and fitness benefits of HIIT training, there’s also a newer type of workout entering the scene, a “cousin” to HIIT, if you will: high-intensity resistance training or HIRT.

Ready to learn more about high-intensity resistance training, or the new “HIIT” known as HIRT? Keep reading to learn about high-intensity resistance training and why you might want to incorporate HIRT into your workout routine.

We will cover: 

  • What Is HIRT?
  • What Is the Difference Between HIRT and HIIT?
  • Benefits of HIRT
  • Sample HIRT Workouts

Let’s dive in! 

A lat pull-down HIRT exercise.

What Is HIRT?

HIRT, which stands for high-intensity resistance training, is a form of fitness training that involves performing strength training exercises at an all-out effort and then taking short rest periods before going again. 

Examples of types of exercise used during HIRT workouts include squats, kettlebell swings, push-ups, deadlifts, lat pull-downs, split squats, and rows.

What Is the Difference Between HIRT and HIIT?

There’s quite a lot of overlap between high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) but also differences between HIRT vs. HIIT as well.

In terms of similarities, both HIIT and HIRT involve alternating between performing very vigorous bouts of exercise and periods of rest with the goal of elevating your heart rate during the work periods to at least 85% of your maximum heart rate.

The purpose of the recovery periods is to give your body enough of a break that you can push it much harder during the “on” intervals than you would be able to during a steady-state workout with no breaks.

HIIT and HIRT are both intense, efficient, and effective workouts.

However, there are also notable differences between HIIT vs. HIRT.

HIRT workouts focus on high-intensity weight training or high-intensity strength training exercises such as traditional weightlifting exercises like squats and deadlifts, metabolic strength training exercises like burpees and kettlebell swings, or plyometric exercises like depth jumps and jump squats.

A push up.

In contrast, HIIT workouts can include resistance training exercises, but they often involve other forms of exercises like sprinting, jumping rope, indoor cycling or other cardio exercises, box jumps and other plyometric exercises, battle ropes, and other metabolic exercises, etc.

One of the major differences between HIRT vs. HIIT is the structure and intensity of the “on” and “off” intervals.

The “on” intervals with HIRT are usually fully all-out efforts as they are with the Tabata style of HIIT. 

However, plenty of HIIT workouts use near-maximal efforts, with a heart rate at or above 85% of your maximum heart rate, but not truly all-out efforts.

Tabata aside, the “on” intervals with HIRT workouts are also usually shorter than they are during HIIT workouts.

Additionally, the “off” intervals with HIRT workouts are usually much longer than with HIIT, at least in terms of the relative work: rest interval ratio.

Kettlebells swings.

For example, a typical HIRT workout involves cycling between hard intervals that last 5 to 15 seconds (2-15 reps) with either active recovery or complete rest intervals that last 3 to 5 times longer, if not more.

You might perform burpees for 15 seconds and then rest for 60 seconds before performing goblet squats for 10 seconds and resting for 45 seconds.

Most fitness experts recommend taking about 45 seconds of rest or every 10 seconds of all-out work, and that last point is key—your “on” efforts really should be at max effort so they need to be kept very short. 

As soon as you start allowing the hard intervals to creep up in duration, you won’t be able to give a true all-out effort.

In contrast, the work-to-rest intervals with HIIT are often 1:1 if not 2:1 rather than 1:3 or 1:5.

Weighted lunge.

With HIIT, the recovery periods allow your heart rate to come down just enough that you can hit the next hard interval all out again yet not enough that it takes you to fully recover, boosting the cardiovascular and metabolic demands of the workout.

With HIRT, the longer recovery periods allow your heart rate to drop further, so there’s often somewhat less of an aerobic challenge with HIRT vs. HIIT, and a bit more of an anaerobic emphasis.

A HIIT workout also often has longer “on” intervals of at least 30 seconds, if not 45 seconds or more.

With that said, some people also structure their high-intensity weight training workouts or HIRT workouts much more like HIIT by not taking the rest until the end of a superset rather than after each exercise. 

For example, rather than doing something like burpees for 15 seconds and then resting for 60 seconds before performing goblet squats for 10 seconds and resting 45 seconds, and then finishing with bench press for 15 seconds and resting for 45 seconds, you might do 15 seconds of burpees straight into 10 seconds of goblet squats before immediately rolling into 15 seconds of bench press.

Then, you would rest for 1-2 minutes before repeating the superset again.

This type of format resembles HIIT much more closely because the work interval ends up being 45-60 seconds or so and the rest interval won’t be appreciably longer than a 1:1 interval.

When HIRT workouts are structured this way, they are essentially HIIT workouts, but just with high-intensity strength training exercises specifically rather than cardio exercises.

Pull up.

Benefits of HIRT

There are many benefits of high-intensity resistance training, including all of the standard health benefits of resistance training, such as increasing muscular strength and size, increasing bone density, decreasing blood pressure, and improving mood.

There are also unique benefits of HIRT workouts given the high-intensity strength training approach versus a standard traditional resistance training intensity and format. 

Because these workouts are so intense, they are extremely efficient and can improve cardiovascular fitness in addition to muscular strength.

Additionally, studies suggest that high-intensity resistance training causes a more significant increase in resting energy expenditure and a decrease in respiratory exchange ratio after the workout than traditional strength training.

This means that HIRT can boost metabolic rate after the workout is over (in much the same way that HIIT does) and increases fat oxidation. 

Chest press.

The benefits of HIRT vs. HIIT are that HIRT can minimize some of the potential drawbacks of the extremely high-intensity nature of HIIT, decrease mitochondrial stress, reduce the risk of fatigue, and shorten recovery time between workouts.

HIRT can also cause a greater increase in testosterone compared to HIIT because of the longer relative rest intervals. 

One study investigated the effect of the length of rest intervals on testosterone levels during a high-intensity bench press workout. Subjects either rested for three minutes or one minute between sets. 

Results demonstrated that those that took the three-minute rest interval experienced a more significant increase in total and free testosterone that persisted for a longer period after the workout than subjects who only rested for one minute between sets.

Sample HIRT Workouts

Below are two sample HIRT workouts you can try. 

You will perform three supersets. 

This means you will do 3 sets of three exercises and then move on and do three sets of three different exercises, and finish with three sets of 4 final exercises rather than doing all 10 exercises in a row and then starting back again with the full lineup again for the second set.

The first workout has rest after each exercise, whereas the second is more of a cardio challenge because rest isn’t until the end of each superset.


Power HIRT Strength Training Workout #1


  1. 60 seconds of jumping jacks
  2. 60 seconds of high knees sprinting in place

Superset #1

  1. 10 heavy goblet squats
  2. Rest 45 seconds
  3. 10 dumbbell chest presses
  4. Rest 45 seconds
  5. 15 kettlebell swings
  6. Rest 45 seconds

Superset #2

  1. 6 heavy barbell deadlifts
  2. Rest 30 seconds
  3. 5 weighted jump squats
  4. Rest 30 seconds
  5. 8 heavy barbell rows
  6. Rest 30 seconds

Superset #3

  1. 8 right-foot Bulgarian split squats
  2. Rest 30 seconds
  3. 8 left-foot Bulgarian split squats
  4. Rest 30 seconds
  5. 10 lat pull downs
  6. Rest 30 seconds
  7. 10 dips
  8. Rest 45 seconds

Power HIRT Strength Training Workout #2


  1. 60 seconds of jumping jacks
  2. 60 seconds of high knees sprinting in place

Superset #1

  1. 10 heavy squats to overhead press
  2. 10 incline chest presses
  3. 10 deadlifts
  4. Rest 45 seconds

Superset #2

  1. 15 kettlebell swing
  2. 10 pull-ups
  3. 10 clapping push-ups
  4. Rest 45 seconds

Superset #3

  1. 8 right-foot Bulgarian split squats with rotation
  2. 8 left-foot Bulgarian split squats with rotation
  3. 8 right foot side lunge with a biceps curl
  4. 8 left foot side lunge with a biceps curl
  5. Rest 45 seconds

Now that you have some HIRT workouts to try out, what about some HIIT workouts? Check out our HIIT workouts you can do from the comfort of your own home.

Bicep curl.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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