29 October 2020

Natalie Tries: High Intensity Interval Pilates

July 7, 2014

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – you’ve got to love it. Building your heart rate up to its max in intense bursts of energy before slowing it back down with active recovery; it’s the perfect way to build up stamina, boost your fitness and really work your heart. But how does Pilates fit in to this dynamic, high-velocity trend? As I stepped into Bootcamp Pilates and was greeted by our enormous, ex-rugby player instructor, I realised this wasn’t going to be the gentle, soothing Pilates I was used to.


The clue is in the name. Bootcamp Pilates takes the traditional practice and infuses it with a hit of military-style intensity. The key to Bootcamp Pilates is the use of the reformer machines. They are intimidating to look at. A sliding platform, an array of springs to control the weights, dumbbells, shoulder pads, ropes… it’s all very confusing. But as soon as you get going you can begin to feel the benefit.

The reformers are crucial in bringing a dynamic element to traditional Pilates. By using the regular Pilates moves but on the reformer, you add an increased range of movement, which requires greater control and engages more of your muscles than if you were working on the floor. This really is a full-body workout.

I’ve used reformers before (remember Dynamic Pilates?) but never in this way. The whole point of HIIT is varying your movements and levels of intensity, so we were both on the reformers and working on the floor in a regimented, timed sequence of moves designed to nail every area of your body.

The Class

With music pumping and camouflage design plastering the studio, we began with a thorough warm up, before jumping into the routine. Floor work comprise of body-weight exercises such as sumo squats, mountain climbers, dynamic planks – intertwined with active recovery including jumping jacks and burpees. This is the only time anyone has ever referred to a burpee as ‘recovery’. Needless o say we were dripping with sweat in minutes.

Then it was on to the reformers for sessions working on your core, glutes and hamstrings – squeezing the weight-ring between our thighs, pushing out hips in the air, sliding up into a side plank – my muscle spasms were reaching seizure-level from the effort. But you kept going, the bootcamp mentality of our instructors inspired a brutal competitiveness in everyone at the class, and we all pushed ourselves to the limit.


It was tough. My muscles were burning from the weights and the control needed on the reformer, but my lungs were burning too from all the cardio – a perfect mix. So many classes focus solely on weights or cardio, it’s great to get a combination.

I left the class feeling completely dead, legs like jelly and desperate for more. If you thrive on group exercise and a collective triumph over pain then this class is for you. The instructors will push you hard, but there are always options to make the exercise less challenging so you can get a lot out of it even if you’re not at peak fitness. Keep in mind that this isn’t the same Pilates your Nana goes to at her local leisure centre – it’s dynamic, fast-paced and relentlessly challenging.

The Positives

–       Mixing up weight training with cardio is fantastic for your fitness and a really functional way to train. This style of exercise is perfect if you play sport; you’re building up your stamina and your strength.
–       Explosive power. Your legs will be jelly at first, but your glutes and thighs have worked so hard that it’s ideal for building up power in your legs. If you play sport where you need to jump or sprint then give it a try.
–       Core strength. Pilates is famously brilliant for developing your core. The dynamic elements here work even harder to strengthen your oblique muscles, ideal if you need to stabilise yourself in sport.
–       The rush. It’s incredibly energising to push yourself this way and go beyond your own expectations. I promise you, you’ll leave feeling brilliant.


The Negatives

–       Bootcamp training isn’t for everyone, and there definitely weren’t enough water breaks or rest periods.
–       The room gets incredibly hot in summer – make sure you bring loose fitting clothes and shorts!
–       It will take you a few times to get used to it. The reformer is quite a complex piece of kit and as we’re on a clock the explanations of the different moves can be slightly rushed. Make sure you take the time to get your form right before diving in.

If you want to give Bootcamp Pilates a try then head to www.bootcamppilates.com

Natalie Morris, Sportsister
The Women’s Sport Magazine

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