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High Intensity Resistance Training Guide

High Intensity Resistance Training
Image by Fernando Zamora from Pixabay
Kent Probst, BS, MEd
Kent Probst is the owner of Long Healthy Life Blog

High Intensity Resistance Training: What is it?

High Intensity Resistance Training (HIRT) is a technique that emphasizes short rest periods between intense bouts of resistance training. 

The intensity of resistance training is often determined by a percentage of your one repetition maximum (1-RM). 

The greater the percentage of your 1-RM, the lower the number of repetitions in a set. The number of repetitions in a set will vary depending on your goal, whether it’s hypertrophy (muscle mass), strength, local muscular endurance, or power.

A good range for general muscular fitness is 8-12 repetitions. 

Loads of >60% of the 1-RM are recommended if your goal is to increase strength. People who are untrained can benefit from intensities of 40%-85% of 1-RM. 

For maximal strength gains, the training intensity should be >80% of 1-RM. 

When training to improve hypertrophy, a good range is 8-12 repetitions, while some research suggests hypertrophy can be stimulated with a range of 6-20 repetitions. 

With short rest periods and intense bouts of resistance training, by default you’ll improve muscular endurance, while minimizing hypertrophy and strength. 

By contrast, if your goal is hypertrophy or strength, you should rest at least 2 minutes between sets, provided you have time. 


Benefits of High Intensity Resistance Training

1. Less Time Spent in the Gym

If you’re spending an hour in the gym, you can significantly shorten your workout, possibly to 30 minutes.


2. Improved Muscular Endurance

With HIRT, you can improve your muscular endurance while getting many of the benefits of resistance training. 


3. Increased Resting Metabolism

You will build muscle mass which will increase your metabolism and allow you to burn more calories at rest. 

One study showed that ten weeks of resistance training can increase lean mass by 1.4 kilograms, increase resting metabolic rate by 7%, and decrease body fat by 1.8 kilograms.


4. Improved Cognitive Function

Research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society demonstrated that resistance exercise can improve cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.


5. Better Balance

As a consequence of aging, our balance tends to deteriorate.  More specifically, this means loss of sensory ability and motor control, as well as a decline in musculoskeletal function from sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass).

Reducing the risk of fractures is another reason you should be concerned about balance.

The risks associated with poor balance include falling and fracturing a bone.  To improve balance you should incorporate resistance exercise into your fitness regimen. 

A meta-analysis of 13 studies demonstrated moderate to large improvements in the balance of older adults when given a battery of balance tests after resistance training.  


6. Reduced Levels of Inflammation

Published studies have demonstrated that diseases linked to low-grade inflammation, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, may be mitigated by resistance training. 

Since resistance training can reduce inflammation, it may be an effective strategy for preventing or delaying diseases related to inflammation.


7. Increased Walking Speed

Maintaining or increasing walking speed is the concern of many people as they advance in age. And lower extremity resistance training may help accomplish the goal of increased walking speed. 

After 8 weeks of resistance training (three times per week), women in their sixties demonstrated significant improvement in the 10-Minute Walk Test. 


What is the Difference Between HIRT and HIIT?

HIIT is generally defined as intense exercise periods mixed with recovery periods. 

For example, interval training often consists of vigorous intensity exercise (20-240 seconds) followed by moderate-to-light intensity exercise (60-360 seconds), alternating between the two levels of intensity. 

HIIT is frequently performed at an intensity level  > 80% – 100% of peak heart rate. 

HIIT may or may not include resistance exercise, while HIRT only includes resistance exercises.  

A key difference between HIRT and HIIT: HIRT is anaerobic exercise, whereas HIIT is considered aerobic.  

Since HIRT is anaerobic exercise you’ll eventually be forced to rest between your sets.

With HIIT, you can alternate between periods of vigorous intensity and moderate-to-light intensity. 


Sample HIRT Techniques

1. Intraset Rest Training:  Do 12 repetitions to failure. Rest 10-20 seconds, and then do as many reps as possible (usually about 4 reps). Rest 10-20 seconds again, then do as many reps as possible until you’ve accumulated 20 reps. Then move on to the next exercise. You may want to rest 2 minutes before moving on to the next exercise.

Intraset rest training is one way to improve training efficiency while spending less time in the gym. 


2. Supersets: This consists of performing two exercises back to back with minimal rest between the sets. Supersets can be performed with exercises involving opposing muscles (e.g biceps and triceps) or with pre-exhaustion.

Pre-exhaustion involves working a target muscle with two exercises, first with a single joint exercise, then a compound exercise (pec fly and bench press). 

The benefits of supersets is that they improve the efficiency of workout and reduce time spent training without compromising training volume. 


Incorporating HIRT into Your Workout

The biggest benefit of HIRT seems to be increased training efficiency and shortened workout times.

Make sure you continue to adhere to the correct frequency, intensity, time, and type (FITT) of resistance exercise. 

Resistance exercise should be done 2-3 times per week, allowing 48-96 hours rest between workouts. 

For beginners, perform 60%-70% of 1 repetition-max for 8-12 repetitions. 

10-15 repetitions is a good range for people over 50.

Beginners can start with 2-3 sets per exercise.  More advanced people can do 4-6 sets per exercise.

Select a combination of single joint and multi joint exercises that work opposing muscle groups, or agonists and antagonists. You can avoid muscle imbalances by following this strategy.

To effectively improve muscular fitness, use a wide variety of equipment, such as barbells, dumbbells, cables, resistance bands, kettlebells, and gravity.

By following the correct frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercises, HIRT can be a helpful addition to your workout. 

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

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Hi, I'm Kent

As a personal trainer, exercise physiologist, and bodybuilder, I’ve dedicated my life to optimal nutrition, fitness and natural remedies. And putting it all into practice. Now I’m taking my experience and knowledge to the next level by helping others through blogging.


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