Four Ways to Add Cardio to Your Pilates Workout

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Four Ways to Add Cardio to Your Pilates Workout

This may be a shock to you.  The first time I tried pilates (eons ago), I wasn’t hooked.  I didn’t think there was enough of a “burn factor” and I didn’t see the numbers on my heart rate monitor going too high–not a huge cardio output nor a huge calorie burn.  Today as a much wiser woman I realize that pilates definitely has a huge burn factor and is one of the best workouts out there for strengthening your core, your back, glutes and, well, the rest of your body!  But the fact remains that it isn’t a huge calorie burner and you generally cannot count a pilates session towards your weekly recommended cardio output (the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise).  But if you aren’t a huge fan of cardio, I’ve put together Four Ways to Add Cardio to Your Pilates Workout!


Add HIIT Moves

A sure-fire way to get your heart rate going is to add high intensity or HIIT moves to your pilates routine.  I am a huge fan of going this because HIIT moves are short bursts of high energy so they are over quickly but you get your heart rate going even when you are performing your strength moves!  It’s a win-win pairing.  I already pair HIIT moves with my barre toning in HIIT the Barre so pilates is a natural step!

Try adding in jumping jacks, plie jumps, burpees and rolling like a cannonball to your pilates routine.  You can easily do this whether you are doing a mat class or an apparatus class–just hop off the equipment!  Here are a few of my favorite HIIT moves!

Accelerate the Pace

All you have to do to increase your cardio during your pilates session is increase your pace.  If you are comfortable with the pilates moves and you know you can perform them without getting injured, you can slightly increase the pace at which you perform the moves.  The key to this is to do the moves quickly but effectively, which means performing them with precision and control but at a quick pace.  You can also accelerate the pace by cutting down the transition time in between pilates moves.  To do this, you will need to be comfortable with the proper form and setup for each exercise.

Add Standing Pilates

Standing pilates is a great way to work your core, upper and lower body while focusing on balance and coordination.  Standing pilates can also increase your cardio burn since you will need to use your legs and glutes to support you, some of your largest and biggest calorie burning muscle groups.  I like to start my pilates mat practice with a standing workout before moving onto the mat to focus on more traditional exercises.  Check out the short standing workout that you can add on to your own pilates mat class.  If you want a full class with a standing workout, check out some of my full-length pilates videos in my online studio!

Add in Some Equipment

One of the easiest ways to add in some cardio to your pilates workout is to add in equipment.  Sometimes that little extra resistance or prop will make you work harder and increase your cardiac output.  Here are a few of my favorites pieces of equipment that can help increase your pilates cardio.

The Jump Board

For reformer workouts, I love the jump board!  It definitely raises my heart rate since you are, afterall, jumping!  Even just using the jump board for 20 minutes increases my cardio for my reformer sessions.  If you already have a reformer, adding a jump board usually does not cost much.  If your studio has reformers, ask about adding the jump board into your session!

The Reformer Box

If you have a reformer at home then you probably have a reformer box as well.  This box is so versatile and often underused.  Try taking the box off the reformer and placing it on the floor.  You can easily add in some cardio moves like step ups, over the tops, toe taps and so much more.  You can do these before your workout to get in some cardio or add in some intervals hopping on and off the machine.  Even if you don’t have a reformer, you can still use any type of step or box to add in a bit of cardio to your mat workout.

The Rebounder

I love love love my mini rebounder.  This small trampoline is the perfect way to add in some low-impact but major sweaty cardio into my pilates routine.  You can add in 20-30 minutes of rebounding to your mat workout, a chair workout or just about any pilates workout you wish!  I also love using the mini tramp as a pilates mat tool because the surface is just slightly more unsteady than the floor.  In fact, check out my latest video combining pilates and the mini tramp!

Jump Rope

A jump rope is inexpensive and a really challenging cardio workout.  I like to alternate 1-2 minutes of jumping rope with my pilates session.  For instance, I might start with hundreds and then the series of 5 and then do 1-2 minutes of jumping before coming back to the mat and doing the next set of moves.  Depending on how much cardio I want, I might do about 5-10 minutes of mat work and then 1-2 minutes of jumping rope.  You can easily do the same on any of the apparatus.  Perform 5-10 minutes of exercises on the apparatus and then hop off and do 1-2 minutes of jumping rope.


Adding weights to my workouts almost automatically amps up the burn and cardio factor.  Try adding weights to traditional pilates exercises like the hundred, the rollup, rolling like a ball and the saw and see how much more you are huffing and puffing.  Check out this pilates video that adds weights into the workout!

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