What Is HIRT & How Can It Improve My Boxing Training?

What Is HIRT & How Can It Improve My Boxing Training?

Athletes have been using HIRT style of training since the 1970s. Here’s how boxers can add High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training to their boxing routine.

Published: April 13, 2022

Topics: Tips & Technique, Training

Author: Jeff Turbett

These days, almost everyone has heard of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT utilizes varying levels of intensity for a set amount of time, followed by minimal rest time. The workouts are relatively short and can have amazing benefits, including high calorie burn. HIIT, however, is just one of the many types of training that you can add to your boxing routine. Another type of training that is making a comeback and great for boxers to work on their strength and conditioning is HIRT.

What Is High Intensity Resistance Training (HIRT)?

Even if you’re familiar with HIIT, you may never have heard of its closely-related complement, High Intensity Resistance Training (HIRT). The general concept of HIRT is similar to all other forms of interval training, with the primary focus on using resistance, such as free weights, barbells, resistance bands, and kettlebells. Picture HIIT combined with resistance training, and you have a near perfect full-body workout.

The concept of HIRT has been around for a while. It was invented in the 1970s by the founder of Nautilus, Arthur Jones. In general, HIRT focuses on utilizing some form of resistance training (i.e. dumbbells) to try and maximize muscle fatigue and recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. This ultimately places a heavy emphasis on the muscles’ time under tension (work load time).

The great thing about HIRT is that you get all the benefits of a 2-hour long workout in a fraction of the time, usually 30-45 minutes. You perform back-to-back exercises with no rest, followed by a brief rest period in between these exercise blocks or circuits. You may be more familiar with the concepts of supersets, tri-sets, or giant sets, which are several high-effort, high-intensity exercises performed back-to-back without rest.

3 Benefits of HIRT Training

If you’re not already convinced to add HIRT to your at-home workout routine, here are some additional benefits.

1. Weight Management

We know that regularly working out helps with weight management. A study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine showed that when it comes to fat oxidation or the body’s ability to burn fat, HIRT workouts have an even greater effect on regulating weight than traditional training.

2. Improves Cognitive Function

One main cause of cognitive decline is the overall development of insulin resistance in individuals. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between introducing exercise routines and improved sensitivity of insulin levels in those who have become resistant. A recent 2020 study to assess the effectiveness of HIRT in combatting cognitive decline as a result of insulin resistance showed improved insulin resistance and thus better overall cognitive function when HIRT was added to the routines of the study group.

3. Increases Muscular Strength

Resistance training has been shown to increase muscular strength. However, there is a difference in results between traditional low-intensity training (performing one exercise at a time with a typical 30-60 seconds rest) and HIRT protocols. A 2017 study compared two groups: individuals who followed HIRT-style workouts and individuals who followed traditional training. Results showed that both groups had the same muscle hypertrophy, but individuals in the HIRT group yielded greater overall muscular strength.

How To Add HIRT Workouts to Your Boxing Training

HIRT Boxing Workout

As we mentioned, adding HIRT workouts to your at-home boxing routine can give you the benefits of a 2-hour exercise session in a fraction of the time. HIRT is a great way to mix up your boxing and kickboxing training and keep things fresh and engaging. Here are five (5) tips to maximize your HIRT workout.

1. Keep Things Short and Sweet

If this is your first time trying HIRT, keep your session on the shorter side. On average, HIRT-style workouts usually run 30-45 minutes. Start out with 15-minute sessions and build up your tolerance.

2. Have a Gameplan

Just as with any activity, it's never a good idea to start out unprepared and without a plan. Make sure that you are following an actual set workout to maximize benefits.

3. Range, Rest, Reps, Effort

The ideal number of reps performed for each exercise is between 8 and 15. The majority of HIRT workouts will follow the giant superset scheme (4 or more exercises performed back-to-back) or in circuit blocks. Once you complete each circuit, rest for 1-2 minutes depending on intensity. Your effort during each block of exercises should be near maximal, 80-95%.

4. Quality Matters

In life, more is not always better, and the same is true for HIRT. Most trainers may only recommend doing 1-2 sessions a week, usually in conjunction with low-intensity, steady-state cardio (jogging) or a good shadowboxing or punching bag session. HIRT workouts are taxing on the central nervous system and if performed too frequently, can do more harm than good. A good rule of thumb is to allow 48 hours in between HIRT sessions.

5. Have Fun!

HIRT workouts are a fun way to incorporate mix-n-match style programming. Choose routines that alternate between total body movements, push/pull movements, and upper body/lower movements. Keeping things interesting and fresh forces your body to keep guessing so you’ll never be bored.

Time for a Change of Pace

There you have it–everything you need to know about HIRT: the what’s, how’s, and why's for adding this to your boxing training. Spice up your fitness journey and mix things up!

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Jeff Turbett

Jeff Turbett has trained in boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and MMA. He is a personal trainer and knows the importance of cross-training for combat sports. He’s also a contributor at BellaVita Fitness and Wellness online.

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