One of our lesser known classes is HIIT Pilates. You may have seen some of the red, sweaty faces falling out of studio 2 on a Friday morning and thought to yourself…“what on earth are they doing in there and should I be doing it too?”
Well, keep reading and all will be revealed as I explain what HIIT is and why you should be including it in your exercise regime.
What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for high- intensity interval training. It is an enhanced form of interval training aimed at increasing metabolic change…but what does that actually mean?
It’s essentially short, intense bursts of exercise designed to raise your heart rate. You ideally work at 80-90% of your maximum heart rate during these short bursts followed by a rest period or interval of lower intensity exercise.
Your fitness level will determine your work/recovery ratio. Beginners will usually start with a 30 seconds work period followed by 30 seconds rest while the more advanced can work for 1 minute with a 10-15 second rest period.
HIIT can be done anywhere and is a particularly good holiday workout as it requires little or no equipment. Body weight is usually enough to elevate the heart rate and you can apply it to any form of exercise e.g. swimming, cycling, pull-ups or squats.
Is HIIT difficult?
The mention of “high intensity” tends to put people off HIIT training but the intensity/difficulty of the workout is relative to your own individual level of fitness.
So for some, high intensity might mean flipping huge tyres or handstand press-ups whereas for others light jogging or brisk walking might be enough to elevate your heat rate.
The great thing about HIIT is that it’s incredibly accessible, even for beginners. Due to the interval nature of the workout, it’s not continuous exercise and you will always have a rest prior to recover and catch your breath.
What are the benefits of HIIT?
Research has shown HIIT to have multiple benefits on health and fitness. The media have hyped up the benefits of HIIT training and whilst some claims are a little far fetched, it has been shown to improve heart health, improve fitness levels (by improving VO2 max) and regulate blood sugar. It can also increase metabolic rate and fat burning potential and it is thought to elevate post-exercise metabolism for up to 24 hours following exercise (Alhamadi 2014; Bryner et al 1997; Boutcher 2011, Trapp et al 2008).
This basically means that you can improve your ability to burn fat and calories – HIIT continues to work post-exercise allowing you to burn fat faster than normal for up to 24 hours after exercise. This means that you are still burning fat even after you have finished your workout.
What about strength and muscle mass?
HIIT workouts are not designed to improve strength as they don’t overload muscles in the same way that weight training/strength and conditioning does. However unlike steady cardio, HIIT training doesn’t reduce muscle mass. It therefore won’t be counterproductive to your training and will allow you to preserve hard earned muscle whilst reducing body fat.
It all sounds too good to be true? What’s the catch? Well, from personal experience it is a great form of exercise if done safely and correctly and certainly gets results fast. However, there are a few things to take into consideration.
Don’t overtrain: Because this type of exercise is so quick any easy, it’s tempting to train everyday. I would aim to do it 2-3 times a week to allow your body to recover in between sessions.
Technique is very important : Poor technique on simple exercises such as squats and lunges can put excess strain on the knees, hips and lower back eventually leading to injury.
Pre-training: Before starting on a HIIT regime I would suggest preparing your muscles and tendons for the explosive nature of some of the exercises commonly used. Building up strength with basic movements such as heel raises, squats and lunges could help to reduce the risk of injury.
HIIT isn’t for everyone: As with all forms of exercise, if you have a heart or any other medical condition, it is advisable to be cleared by your doctor before starting HIIT. Cardiac risk are slightly higher due to the higher blood push to work at a higher level.
If you have any questions or concerns about HIIT, come and grab me for a chat, otherwise I hope to see you in my Friday 10.30am class
Note: We have a modified timetable over the summer. Keep an eye out for our HIIT Pilates classes popping up on a Friday and Saturday. The Friday 10.30am HIIT Pilates will be back in regularly from 23/8/19.