Creative group fitness instructors have been developing fun fusion experiences for years now. Bringing together two or more concepts in one class continues to be popular. It’s a great way to offer participants the best of different formats. This class, Iron Fusion, is based on cardio kickboxing and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), with the added benefit of Pilates principles.

Kickboxing is a great way to get an intense total-body workout, while HIIT has the potential to produce rapid and dramatic changes to the body and cardiovascular system. Pilates principles include key concepts that encourage core-centered movement, neutral alignment being crucial. Bring them together and you can build energy with kickboxing drills, launch into 30- or 60-second HIIT drills, and center the body with standing Pilates-based moves for active recovery.

Because this class includes forward, lateral and plyometrics-based training, a good cross-training shoe is recommended. Other than proper footwear, no specific equipment is required. When selecting music, keep the beats per minute around 130. This class is appropriate for everyone—from those new to exercise to seasoned athletes. Be prepared to modify moves properly and to pay attention to the needs and abilities of all attendees.

Warm-Up (10 minutes)

Use the warm-up to gradually increase heart rates and to introduce the basics in each discipline. For kickboxing, teach ready stance and show how to properly cage a kick. Rehearse the moves, introducing the initial range for beginners and foreshadowing the workout drills with low-intensity pacing. Use this same regressed intensity to acquaint the class with basic HIIT moves. For the Pilates component, show participants how to find neutral spine and how to breathe properly.

The Main Workout (30–45 minutes)

Iron Fusion flows from kickboxing drills to HIIT drills to Pilates active recovery. Use the following sample lists to create three full segments averaging about 15 minutes each with transition time. “Throw away” the choreography after each segment and start fresh. Teach initial, mid and end ranges for each move. Use this terminology instead of cuing “beginner, moderate and advanced.” Begin each segment with the initial range so everyone feels successful. This will let you gauge the group’s skill level so you can modify moves as class continues.

Kickboxing Examples (5–7 minutes)

Be inspired by this sample kickboxing drill. You can come up with endless combinations on your own.

  • Start with double side step.
  • Add basic jab.
  • Repeat with cross-jabs, uppercuts and hooks.

Maintain proper form and lift heels when pivoting.

Combine punches:

  • Perform triple front jab with cross.
  • Perform double uppercut to corners.
  • Add four knee raises/skull crushers.
  • Change four knees to front kick, back kick, front kick, knee raise (modification: touch heels to floor).
  • Do cross-jabs with side step then side heel tap (progression: change heel tap to kick).

HIIT (30 seconds–1 minute)

Proceed immediately from the kickboxing segment to HIIT. Remember, these moves do not have to be plyometric. You can offer low-impact modifications for all exercises while keeping the intensity high.

Try these moves:

  • running in place with high knees (modification: walking with high knees)
  • “jumping rope” in place (modification: heel taps)
  • football running, fast feet, “running legs” narrow and wide (modification: walking in place)
  • skater jumps side to side (modification: wide side steps)
  • sumo squat jumps (modification: lifting heels without leaving floor)
  • sumo squat burpees (progression)
  • regular squat jumps (modification: single knee raises)
  • side lunges reaching high and low (modification: smaller range of motion)
  • “ski legs,” reaching arms high (modification: stepping back instead of jumping)
  • running man/power knee lifts while pulling arms down and feeling rib-to-hip connection for a crunch (modification: simple knee raises)
Pilates (5 minutes)

Proceed immediately from the HIIT segment to Pilates. Fuse Pilates principles with continual movement to avoid a rapid decrease in heart rate. Here are the essential Pilates principles:

Centering. Physically focus on the midline of the body.

Concentration. Feel what your body is trying to do (mind-body connection).

Control. Execute moves with complete muscular control.

Neutral spine (precision). Focus on proper posture; maintain the natural position of the spine when all body parts are in good alignment.

Breathing. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly.

Flow. Move through exercises with grace.

Below are some examples of standing Pilates exercises (begin each one in a standing Pilates neutral stance). Repeat as appropriate. You may also come up with your own moves if you have a solid understanding of Pilates principles and know how to cue correctly.

Side plié squat. Do side plié squat with right leg, lowering gently and returning to neutral. Repeat with left leg.

Side plié squat with leg lift. Plié squat on right leg, lifting leg (front/side/back) as you return to standing. Repeat with other leg.

Standing footwork. While standing in Pilates V, slowly lift up on toes and come back down. Continue with toe raises and then do pliés up and down.

Standing hundred. Focus on core contraction. Have arms down at sides, palms facing back. Pump arms a few inches back and forth. Repeat.

Standing roll-up and roll-down. Drop chin toward chest, moving one vertebra at a time. Continue through upper back, middle back and lower back until you’re in forward-fold position. Unwind to standing.

Standing torso twist. While standing in Pilates V, lead from core and turn torso to one side. Keep hips in neutral position. Come to center and repeat on opposite side.

Standing arm circles. With arms extending laterally at shoulder height, reach long while keeping shoulders back and down. Perform small circles forward for 30 seconds and back for 30 seconds.

Cool-Down (5–8 minutes)

The goal of the cool-down is to bring the body back to pre-exercise levels and stretch the muscles worked. There is no need for additional core work as the core was engaged and used throughout the entire class. Nice stretches to incorporate here include forward lunge with overhead stretch, standing hamstring stretch with heel to ground, and wide-legged forward bend. Make sure you target the upper body with shoulder, triceps and back stretches.

Debra Orringer, MS

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