Written by Lori Brand, CPT, Group Fitness & Yoga Instructor

Whether you’re looking to bust a plateau, pile on some muscle, or shed a few pounds, crushing your fitness goals is rarely possible without changing something in your routine. If you’re already utilizing high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves brief, intensive bursts of cardio that crank up your heart rate, adding resistance to your circuit training is going to be the game-changer you’ve been craving.

This style of training will require you to perform short, maximal effort blocks of resistance exercises, performed with little to no rest between each exercise. It’s similar to traditional circuit training, but the added resistance may require more rest between circuits in order to recover. The blocks of work should be so intense that you should not be able to carry on a conversation, or return texts between sets. You’ll need every second of the rest period to get ready for the next round of work. If that sounds intimidating, consider the following benefits, and remember: what doesn’t challenge you, doesn’t change you.

Here are a few reasons to combine resistance training and HIIT.

Elevated Metabolism & Caloric Afterburn

Resistance training builds muscle tissue, while interval training produces the afterburn effect, which means your metabolism remains elevated long after you’ve hit the showers. This is due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or oxygen debt, referring to the energy your body needs to recover from its workout. And unlike regular cardio, which can lead to both muscle and fat being catabolized for energy, resistance training signals to your body that it can’t afford to part with any muscle, so it’s more likely to draw from your fat reserves for energy.

Improved Metabolic Profile

This style of training also promotes the release of human growth hormone (HGH), a hormone known to stimulate fat loss, muscle growth, and bone density, as well as slow the aging process. Additionally, intense resistance circuit training improves insulin sensitivity, which not only enhances fat loss, but helps prevent disease, cognitive decline, sugar crashes, and skin issues.

Build Work Capacity

Work capacity is the amount of stress your body can handle, recover from, and adapt to. Because high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) improves your muscular endurance, VO2 max (your body’s ability to use oxygen), and cardiovascular health, your work capacity goes up. This enables you to train harder, and become even stronger and more fit.

Time Efficient

HIRT workouts are cardio and strength training all rolled into one. Furthermore, because of their pace, you can squeeze a lot of volume into a short amount of time.

Rules for Success

Be sure to incorporate these tips to get the most efficient workout possible.

  • Always warm up with dynamic movements such as jumping jacks; arm, knee, and ankle circles; hip rotations, etc.
  • Stick to exercises you’re familiar with to ensure proper form throughout.
  • Rest at least 48 hours between these types of workouts, and engage in active rest like yoga, foam rolling, and low-impact cardio.
  • Focus on compound (multi-muscle) movements, and avoid isolation exercises like biceps curls, etc.
  • Plan your workout ahead of time so you don’t need to stop and think between exercises. You want the circuits to be as fluid as possible and minimize rest periods. Try to select exercises that work well together with minimal set-up.

Build Your Resistance Circuit Workout: 

Create 1-2 circuits of 4-8 exercises. Perform anywhere from 6-16 reps per exercise (lower reps for heavier weights). Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds. If you have fewer exercises with less resistance, keep the rest short. If you use heavy weights and include more exercises, rest longer. Repeat the blocks for 12-30 minutes.

Sample Workout  

Try this example workout using dumbbells that allow you to move efficiently with proper form, and perform 6-12 reps of each exercise. After completing the circuit once through, rest 1-2 minutes. Complete 3 rounds.



Muscles Worked

Squat Press


Legs, glutes, core, shoulders, pecs,
triceps, traps

Upright Row


Shoulders, traps, rhomboids, biceps

Jumping Lunge

6-8 (per side)

Legs, glutes, calves, core

Dumbbell Swing


Core, hamstrings, glutes, lats, shoulders

Renegade Row Push-Up

6-8 (per side)

Traps, lats, biceps, pecs, triceps, core

STRONG Fitness
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