Should I do HIIT or Pilates first?


Pilates and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) are types of workouts with their own style and benefits. However, if you intend to do both exercises, what do you start with first? Should I do HIIT or Pilates first?

In general, it may be a great idea to start with Pilates before starting HIIT. The logic is to use Pilates to stretch and prepare your body first before going into more intensive movement during HIIT. However, there are workouts that combine Pilates and HIIT into a single session, called HIIT Pilates.

This article discusses the advantages of both HIIT and Pilates and some questions you may have about how you can perform both workouts together on the same day. We also discuss if doing just Pilates or HIIT alone is enough.

What Are The Benefits Of Doing HIIT and Pilates?

Generally, HIIT focuses on improving stamina while assisting in fat burning, while Pilates strengthens your core, posture and breathing. The two exercises complement each other well, which is why many people try to integrate both into their daily lives. 

HIITPilates
High-Intensity workout Great for fat burning and metabolism Great for stamina and endurance building Helps to strengthen and grow muscles. Low-Intensity workout Great for strengthening core muscles Improves muscular toning Improves posture Reduces muscular-skeletal problems such as back pain or hunching. 

HIIT and Pilates are exercises with different objectives and goals in mind. As such, the workouts can be vastly different and bring out other results.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by rest periods. This type of training is great for fat loss because it helps burn calories faster than traditional cardio workouts. The key here is to make each workout intense enough to get results fast, but not so hard that you injure yourself.

HIIT, in general, is designed to get your heart pumping, speed up metabolism and help you break some sweat. The movements can be slower in the beginning, with a jump in intensity over a period of time to push your heart rate and muscles to work to maximum. 

The workout may slow down again to allow you time to recover. This cycle of high intensity-low intensity is usually repeated in several sets in a typical HIIT workout. 

As a result, those who engage in HIIT usually have more muscular stamina and endurance. HIIT also helps you to burn more fat and achieve a leaner physical body. 

Pilates is designed with toning, strengthening and flexibility in mind. Akin to Yoga, a Pilates workout involves doing multiple stretches, pulls and posture maintenance. 

Some of these movements activate specific muscle groups and help to normalise spine positions. As a result, Pilates is great for those with posture or muscular-skeletal issues, such as back pain, neck pain, and hunching. 

As a result, those that engage in Pilates usually have stronger core muscles, better muscular awareness, better posture and flexibility. 

Should I Do HIIT or Pilates First?

Common sense dictates to start with Pilates before moving on to HIIT. Pilates will help to stretch, pull and prepare the muscles for more intense HIIT workouts. Pilates also allows you to focus on your breathing, which can be essential to keep you going during HIIT. 

There may not be a prescribed formula for this, as you can actually do either Pilates first or HIIT first. 

Those that start with Pilates reason their decision this way – that Pilates prepares their body for HIIT. Pilates is a low-intensity workout involving stretches, pulls and maintaining postures while focusing on breathing. 

Therefore, they see Pilates as a way to warm up, prepare and limber up the muscles for an interval workout. During Pilates, you also focus on breathing, building rhythm and patterns that may be useful during HIIT later. With the muscles activated, and the breathing in sync, they can perform HIIT better.

However, there are others who view this differently, suggesting you want to start with HIIT before closing your workout with Pilates. 

The argument for this order is that as HIIT is a high-intensity workout it should be done first while the body is still strong and the muscle capable. Once the high-intensity exercise is completed, you can then move into Pilates to stretch and cool down the body. 

This viewpoint is not without merits. Some see that Pilates may soften and limber up the muscles too much, making them less able to support the movements needed during HIIT, increasing the risk of injury. 

Can I Do Both HIIT and Pilates On The Same Day?

You can do both HIIT and Pilates on the same day. The key is to figure out at that time in the day you would prefer a high-intensity workout or a low-intensity workout. Some people combine both workouts into a single session to save time. 

Again, there is no prescribed recipe for this. Depending on your preference, you may do HIIT and Pilates separately on the same day, together, or one after the other. 

The key is to figure out where you will be more motivated to perform it. You may be a morning person and prefer to work out hard in the morning to get your systems going. In that case, you would do well with a HIIT in the morning and close your day with a relaxing session of Pilates. 

Some are less of a morning person and would prefer a slower start. This means you may be better off with Pilates in the morning and then bust out sweat from HIIT later in the day, perhaps after you clock off from work. Check out my blog on Is there a best time of day to do Pilates?.

Some people perform both exercises in a single session, one after another. Some prefer to start with HIIT and then use Pilates to cool down. Some prefer to start slow with Pilates before pushing hard with HIIT later. 

Then you have those efficiency junkies that combine HIIT and Pilates into a single workout. These Pilates HIIT sessions involve stretches, pulls and extensive movements designed to get you limbered and flexible and get your heart racing. 

Want to give the combined form of exercises a try?  Get a full body workout with my Pilates HIIT YouTube series.

Is Doing Just HIIT Enough?

By doing just HIIT, you will benefit from stronger stamina and endurance and the ability to burn fat and strengthen your muscles. You, however, may miss out on opportunities to develop muscle and breathing awareness and muscle and posture toning. 

HIIT is good in its own way. It is probably the most time-efficient manner to spike up your metabolism and fat-burning rate. You also get to develop stronger stamina and endurance and strengthen your muscles. 

However, by doing just HIIT, you miss out on opportunities to stretch and tone your muscles. You might also not be able to focus on your core muscles and lose opportunities to develop muscular and breathing awareness. 

Overall, it might still be a good idea to perform both HIIT and Pilates. You may combine both workouts in a single session, alternate them daily, or perform them on the same day. The key is discovering the correct arrangement that suits your personality and lifestyle.

Is Doing Just Pilates Enough?

By doing just Pilates, you will gain a lot of flexibility, muscular and breathing awareness, and general improvement in muscle tones and posture. However, you will miss out on opportunities to develop stamina. You also lose out on workouts that help to increase your metabolism and fat-burning rate.

The same could be said about Pilates. If you only perform Pilates without HIIT, you stand to gain in some ways but miss out on others. 

Pilates may help you to improve general muscular and posture, meaning you might be less likely to suffer back pain or conditions such as hunching. You may also have stronger core muscles and flexibility. You are more aware of your breathing patterns as well.

However, you lose out on opportunities to burn more fat and increase your metabolism since Pilates won’t exactly get your heart racing. You also lose chances to develop stamina and endurance, which are crucial to cardiovascular health. 

This again points to the fact that it may be better to perform both. You get better overall health by practising both Pilates and HIIT. The key here is to find arrangements that suit your personality and lifestyle. 

Final Thoughts

As a Pilates instructor, my core exercise regime is primarily practising what I teach.  However, I understand the benefits of other forms of exercise and while I love the low-intensity movements that have led me to build up my core strength, there are times when I love the cardiovascular exercise provided by a HIIT workout.

Mixing up different workout types is good for the body, it provides you with different challenges and gives you a more rounded workout.

Donna Finnie

Donna loves to share her passion for Pilates with others. She is a fully qualified instructor who believes Pilates is for everyone, regardless of age, as it can truly help to increase strength, flexibility mobility and athletic performance.

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