HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts are all the rage right now—cycling classes, bootcamps, and circuit training are 3 incredibly popular ones. HIIT workouts are a heart-pumping, sweat-inducing challenge, and we’re all for it. But we also know there are other things your body needs. Here’s why we recommend Pilates for HIIT lovers:
1) Strengthen your abs to prevent injuries
There’s a reason bootcamp classes are always packed: working out with a feisty instructor in an atmosphere that feels like a nightclub is more motivating than Jane Fonda in the 80’s. Most of us aren’t able to work out at that level of intensity by ourselves. The downside of classes like these, though, is that the ratio of exercisers to instructors can be quite high, meaning you won’t get a ton of individual attention. Not to worry: if you’re a Pilates regular, you can be your own teacher!In class, be diligent about your form. Constantly check that your knees are tracking over your toes, your shoulders are down, and most importantly, that your abdominals are engaged. Keeping your abs strong will significantly decrease your chance of injuring yourself, especially your back.
2) Balance fast twitch movements with slow controlled ones
Let’s think about Beyoncé for a moment (because, why wouldn’t we?). It’s pretty safe to say that every show she performs is intense and exhausting. But she doesn’texclusively belt it out onstage. Between shows, she practices, refining her choreography and vocals. Your circuit or bootcamp classes are like Bey’s performances: intense and exhausting. This means that, in between, you need something (ehm, Pilates) that allows you to check in with your fundamentals so you can perform even better at the next class.
One of the 6 Pilates principles (effectively the Pilates commandments) is precision. We are first and foremost concerned with your alignment and form, and this is especially important in your warm-up. Exercises like pelvic tilts and footwork serve as check-in points to see how your body feels at the beginning of class. In order to get a good read on what’s going on, I find it essential to start slow.
3) Lighten your (spring) load
Many people new to Pilates request heavier springs when doing exercises on the reformer. If you’ve been in the studio a time or two, you know that more weight is not always the goal. Let's take arm work for example. If you're on too heavy of a spring, you won't be able to engage the correct muscles or maintain proper alignment. By the time you're done with the set, your traps and low back may be burning, but your arms and abs missed the party entirely! On the appropriate spring and still want more of a challenge? You can always ask your instructor how to make things harder, or you can do more reps.
Some Pilates exercises are actually harder when you’re on a lighter spring. Take planks on the reformer (pictured below). With a heavier spring, it’s harder to press the carriage out, but it’s no work at all to pull it in; the springs do it for you. On a lighter spring, your abs have to work like crazy to press out only a small amount and maintain control. Then they have to work even harder to pull the weight of your body back in towards the footbar.
Working in this precise way is definitely not the easy way out. But eventually, your alignment and core engagement will be so second nature that you’ll be able to jump into circuit training without even thinking about it. And then your glorious reward: you’ll be like Beyoncé.
Author: Ali Weeks