HIIT—or high-intensity interval training—has been hot in the fitness world for years. In its purest form, a HIIT workout involves short, all-out bursts of intense cardio with brief rest periods in between. It’s traditionally performed on an exercise bike, but you can also sprint, run on a treadmill or do plyometric (jumping) exercises for the intervals. If you go hard enough, you can be done with your whole workout in as little as four to eight minutes, achieving just as many, if not more benefits than you would from steady-state workouts like jogging or regular cycling.
More recently, HIIT’s lesser-known cousin HIRT—a.k.a. high-intensity resistance training—has been gaining in popularity. Here we examine what it is and whether it’s worth adding to your fitness regimen.
What is HIRT?
HIRT is resistance-training that keeps your heart rate elevated, simultaneously providing strength and cardio benefits. The most common way to achieve this is by performing supersets* of three or four back-to-back strength exercises, with about 60 to 90 seconds between each superset. For example, your workout might look something like this:
20 bicycle crunches
10 dumbbell chest presses
10 dumbbell bent-over rows
20 walking or jumping lunges
As you improve, you can cycle through those supersets multiple times or add a third or even fourth superset with different exercises.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re HIRTing:
- Warm up before you start, and cool down at the end.
- You can use weights or resistance bands or do bodyweight exercises. If you use weights, they don’t need to be overly heavy—the goal of HIRT isn’t to build huge muscles.
- You’ll want to maintain quick pace during the workout, but not at the expense of form.
- Take at least one rest day between HIRT sessions. You’ll see greater benefits if you give your body time to recover.
- It’s usually best to do full-body workouts versus focusing on specific muscle groups. Otherwise, your muscles will burn out too quickly.
If you do HIRT right, it will indeed—as its name pronunciation suggests—hurt a bit, but in a good way that gets your muscles, heart and lungs fit in a fraction of your usual workout time. And, as at least one study indicates, it trumps traditional strength and cardio training by keeping your metabolism revving longer and harder than with other workouts.
*A superset is a group of exercises performed back-to-back, with no rest in between.