Is HIRT what you need to boost your health and fitness?

Are you ready to HIRT? Here’s why this new training method is good for your heart and your muscles, plus how to add it to your exercise sessions.

While not the most appealing of acronyms, when it comes to workouts, HIRT is the latest training style to try. 

Standing for “high intensity resistance training”, HIRT isn’t too dissimilar from HIIT (high intensity interval training), except that it focuses on strength exercises, too.

The HIRT theory involves working your way around a circuit, giving each exercise your all, with little to no recovery time between sets.

While it can be restricted to either the upper or lower body, HIRT tends to be a whole-body workout. 

Bodyweight exercises (such as squats and dips) are often included, which can make this a great option for beginners, as well as those who want to up the ante with their workouts.

“The combination of resistance exercises with minimal rest shunts blood flow to and from different body parts, enabling one area to recover while another works towards a limit,” The Wellness Place physiotherapist Mark Maddison says. 

“This produces a workout for the muscles and the heart and lungs, giving the benefit of a strength and cardiovascular workout at the same time.”

HIRT beyond the weights room

Pilates can also provide a HIRT workout by using speed and tempo to increase repetitions and heart rate.

Your Body Physio & Pilates owner and clinical director Aoife Casey says people are often surprised at how intense a workout they get from pilates.

“We’re seeing a lot of people incorporate pilates exercises into their gym floor routines,” Aoife says.

Get in, get out

HIRT is the antidote to long sessions in the weights room, counting down bicep curls and resting on the leg press.

“There’s good evidence supporting HIRT as a great form of exercise for building cardiovascular fitness and burning calories, and it’s efficient – so, it doesn’t take all day,” Aoife says. 

“If you can get a quick 20- to 30-minute HIRT session into your day five days a week, you will see fast results.”

How to play it safe with HIRT

It’s always important to focus on form and know your limits. 

Mark says the best way to avoid injury with a HIRT workout is to choose exercises – and the appropriate weights, reps and sets – that you know you can perform with the correct form and technique.

“Also, keep in mind there is an element of collective fatigue with little to no recovery between sets,” he says. 

“Always plan the workout with a little in reserve, as you can bet you will probably be more fatigued than you think, and this is the perfect storm for an injury.”

HIRT training tips

“If you’re planning on starting your own HIRT sessions, start with simple ideas,” Mark says. 

He recommends you do no more than four exercises in a circuit, with a format of upper body/lower body/upper body/lower body, or push/pull/push/pull. 

“This will allow a little extra recovery with reduced chance of ‘blowing a gasket’,” he says. 

“Work out alongside a friend with a similar goal and fitness level – and most of all, keep it fun.”

Written by Samantha Allemann.