Whether you prefer to sweat it out in an indoor cycling class or feel the burn at barre, there's usually a strategic method behind the class structure. It's the fitness instructor's job to design a class that gets you moving in the funnest way possible to provide an amazing workout without you actually realizing you're exerting yourself.
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But maybe you've noticed that your instructor gets a little repetitive at times or gives certain modifications for men and women. There are good reasons for that. Here are five things you may not have known about your favorite fitness classes — from a fitness instructor with years of experience.
1. There’s Always at Least 20 Minutes of Cardio
Burning fat is often at the top of people's list of workout goals. Whether you're hitting the gym for a serious transformation or you're looking to maintain what you've already achieved, cardio should be a part of your training regimen.
In order for your body to begin the physiological process of burning fat, you must significantly raise your heart rate for no less than 20 consecutive minutes. That's just for the process to begin, so keeping your cardio going for longer than 20 minutes allows your body to continue this process of burning fat.
One of the best ways to do this is through HIIT workouts, which has you working at your max for a given period of time (say, 30 to 45 seconds) and then resting before your next all-out set. In most classes, this portion of the workout goes on for at least 20 minutes.
2. Instructors Repeat Things to Get Your Attention
No, your instructor isn't just talking to take up time in the class. There are many things that a seasoned instructor will say in her classes time and time again, and it has to do with the fact that people tend to make the same mistakes until they perfect proper form.
When it comes to exercise, your body tends to work against you rather than for you — until you train it to do otherwise. As you build correct form, you gain greater body awareness and will be able to really maximize your workout.
Plus, think of your instructor as a cheerleader. She's repeating all those things to you not only to keep proper form top of mind, but also to keep you motivated when you feel like giving up. Before long, you may even know what she's going to say before she says it!
3. The Order of Exercises Helps You Reach Your Goals
Having a specific order for exercises is as important when creating a class as it is when creating an entire program. It has to do with the specific goal of each type of workout class, and it's why consumers pick one class over another.
Strength-based/sculpting classes will have a totally different set of exercises, format and class structure than your cardio-based classes. In your typical strength classes, only one isometric movement is occurring at a time, which maximizes caloric burn. On the other hand, cardio classes traditionally require moving around the room with the focus on total-body, multi-joint movements.
For example, to target your glutes in a strength class, you might do donkey kicks on the mat. But cardio sequences tend to be larger and quicker. At studios that offer cardio-barre, you might find yourself chasseing to and from the barre and adding various elements like an arabesque or high knees.
4. Men’s and Women’s Bodies Respond Differently to Exercise
Muscle structures vary greatly between genders. Men are naturally stocked with a greater concentration of Type II muscle groups, the "fast-twitch muscles." These are responsible for sharp, powerful movements like jumps. Ladies are naturally more Type I dominant, which is why more often than not they find themselves gravitating toward cardio.
But it's important that both men and women do the opposite of what they're inclined to do. For example, if you're always hitting the treadmill, pick up a pair of dumbbells and knock out some strength exercises. Or if you never do cardio, take a fun class that keeps things moving and interesting.
By attending classes geared toward both men and women, you'll work those muscle groups that are likely being neglected in your training. The idea behind every fitness regimen is to create balance between strength and flexibility, between the different types of muscle groups and between the muscles we are targeting as well. Balance is the best source of injury prevention and allows us to work out for sustainability.
5. You Don't Always Need to Stretch on Your Own Afterward
In some classes, static stretches are added at the end to elongate muscles when the body is already warm and to help begin the recovery process. In other classes — mostly those that feature greater range of motion and faster reps — a concluding stretch is not necessarily needed, since dynamic stretching is more or less built into the class structure.
They are different kinds of stretches, and both serve a different purpose. When doing a workout that incorporates lengthening/stretching a muscle while completing an exercise, it's considered a dynamic stretch. Dynamic stretches can be cardio workouts on their own.
Your cooldown stretches are known as static stretches, in which you're really only working on the flexibility and range of motion in the joint as you stretch it in a resting position. But both are equally needed in everyone's fitness routine.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you regularly attend fitness classes at your gym or a studio? What are some of your favorites? Did you know any of these secrets beforehand? Had you ever wondered about any of them? Are there other mysteries of your favorite workout class you've always wondered about? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!