High-Intensity Weight Training is Efficient and Effective

Woman weight lifting at the gym
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High-intensity training is often recommended as an excellent way to improve your body composition. This type of training can help reduce body fat that may be risky to your health if combined with a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle habits.

Learn more about the potential risks of certain types of abdominal fat and how high-intensity training may help you with your body composition goals.

The Potential Risks of Abdominal Fat

From a health perspective, there are two types of body fat of significance: the subcutaneous fat just below the skin surface and the visceral fat, which is deeper and around the internal organs like the intestines, liver, and kidneys.

According to medical experts, visceral fat is the fat that has the worst metabolic and health consequences, reducing good cholesterol and raising bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. In medical terms, visceral fat is associated with metabolic syndrome, a condition with abnormal blood fats and glucose, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Weight loss, including abdominal fat reduction, is not the best goal for everyone. Weight loss is not equal to being healthy, and extreme exercise and dieting practices can cause more harm than good. Discuss any weight concerns with a health care practitioner.

Benefits of High-Intensity Training

Exercise is generally beneficial regardless of your goals and can help you maintain a balanced weight. If your health care provider has recommended fat loss and a reduction in hip-to-waist ratio or waist circumference to improve your overall health, high-intensity training could be worthwhile.

According to some recent research, both types of abdominal fat can be reduced more successfully with training at a higher intensity, even when compared with the same energy expended in less intense exercise.

Research suggests that high-intensity interval training exercises could be beneficial by targeting visceral and subcutaneous fat. The evidence points to high-intensity training as primarily being useful for saving time. You can burn similar amounts of calories during a shorter but more intense exercise session as you would during a more extended, less intense training session.

High-intensity exercise can be a vague concept with no precise definition, but it means you are working at a higher heart rate. It can refer to sprint-type interval training in which you run or cycle at a high intensity for an interval of, say, 20 to 60 seconds, recover, then repeat the activity.

High-intensity exercise certainly does not mean interval training exclusively. It can mean running or jogging (depending on your aerobic fitness) at a level at which your VO2 or oxygen utilization is at or above 75%, usually at around 85% of your maximum heart rate. Sprint interval training will often be at a heart rate approaching 95% of your maximum.

High-Intensity Weight Training

There are different ways to accomplish high-intensity weight training. Bear in mind that you should always listen to your body and never push past pain. High intensity training with weights requires a higher fitness level and experience performing the movements with proper form.

Circuit Training

Circuit training is a combination of various exercises performed in progression from one to another. One way to include weight training in a high-intensity exercise program that burns many calories is to use a weight training circuit in which you move quickly or even jog between exercises with little rest.

This keeps the heart rate high, provides further intensity in the actual weightlifting exercise, and generally qualifies as high-intensity exercise if you keep on the move.

Here are weight training circuits for different fitness levels, such as:

HIIT With Weights

Performing resistance training exercises using good form with lower weights and higher reps for a set time with rest in between is another way to perform high-intensity exercise combined with weight training.

One straightforward method for this is to choose one upper body movement, one lower body one, a core exercise, and then a cardiovascular movement. Rest for 20-30 seconds after each exercise and again at the end of the sequence. This type of training is often referred to as metabolic conditioning (or metcon for short).

Below is a template for building your own metcon workout. You can choose all bodyweight exercises, weights, kettlebells, or a combination. You will find options for each body part to mix and match or create a new workout every time. If you are more advanced, you can do two unique metcons. Perform the body part exercises for sets of 10 to 20 and the cardio for 60 to 90 seconds.

Build Your Own Metabolic Conditioning Workout

  • Upper body: Push-ups, pullups, push-press, chest press, triceps dips, chest dips
  • Lower body: Squats, lunges, hip bridge, step-ups
  • Core: Crunches, lying leg raise, plank shoulder taps, bicycle crunch
  • Cardio: Jumping jacks, sprints, mountain climbers, burpees, jog-in-place, jump squats

A Word From Verywell

Although it's worth trying to fit in some higher-intensity exercise, it's generally not as easy for beginners. As long as you put in the time, most forms of exercise will work for fat loss at some level. The trick is to start slowly with low-intensity training, or even very short bursts of high-intensity activity, and try the more challenging stuff as you get fitter.

Weight loss is not the same as pursuing health, and losing weight will not necessarily lead to better health. Balancing gentler forms of exercise and recovery activities is essential if you perform high-intensity training. Be sure to discuss changes to your exercise routine and any weight loss concerns with your doctor.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Maillard F, Pereira B, Boisseau N. Effect of high-intensity interval training on total, abdominal and visceral fat mass: A meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2018;48(2):269-288. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0807-y

  2. Yang X, Sui W, Zhang M, et al. Switching harmful visceral fat to beneficial energy combustion improves metabolic dysfunctionsJCI Insight. 2017;2(4):e89044. doi:10.1172/jci.insight.89044

  3. Tong TK, Zhang H, Shi H, et al. Comparing time efficiency of sprint vs. High-intensity interval training in reducing abdominal visceral fat in obese young women: a randomized, controlled trial. Front Physiol. 2018;9:1048. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.01048

  4. Kolnes KJ, Petersen MH, Lien-Iversen T, Højlund K, Jensen J. Effect of exercise training on fat loss—energetic perspectives and the role of improved adipose tissue function and body fat distribution. Front Physiol. 2021;12:737709. doi:10.3389/fphys.2021.737709

Additional Reading
  • Irving BA, Davis CK, Brock DW, et al. Effect of exercise training intensity on abdominal visceral fat and body composition. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Nov;40(11):1863-72.

By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.