If you’re a fan of the reality show The Biggest Loser, you’ll recognize the fiercely fit TV personality and trainer Jillian Michaels. Just last month, Michaels partnered with Crunch gyms to bring her brand of fitness to the masses, with a class called Bodyshred.
The class is based on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a popular, exhilarating training method used in many group fitness classes, including a few I’ve sampled in the past. The goal of HIIT is to work at your highest intensity during each short interval — it’s a highly efficient way to get in shape, if you’re willing to push yourself that hard.
Michaels designed Bodyshred around her 3-2-1 interval workout method, which consists of three minutes of strength training, two minutes of cardio and one minute of core work. Each exercise within each category lasts 30 seconds, and the full circuit is repeated until you hit 30 minutes. There are no recovery breaks, and my water bottle didn’t get any love until the very end of the sweat session.
There’s also a learning curve for first-timers. By the end of the class, I was panting and sweaty, but also utterly confused. Prior to the workout, I sat through a 15-minute introductory period during which my instructor, Zuta Gilchriest, demonstrated the moves to come. These ranged from simple squats to slightly uncomfortable donkey-kicks (or at least my attempts were awkward). But even with the early instruction, I wasn’t fully prepared for the rapid transitions from biceps curls to side planks — or was it side planks to lunges? Just when I got the hang of one move, the music was interrupted with a “beep,” indicating we had 10 seconds before moving on to the next one. Gilchriest told me I looked great during class, but the woman whose toes I smashed sideways would probably give you a different story.
Still, even though the class was confusing for a beginner, a few Bodyshred veterans told me it’s easy to get the hang of eventually, and that they feel proud whenever they finish a session.
Be warned, though, that the exercises differ from one Bodyshred class to the next, and from instructor to instructor. “The body will adapt quickly, so to keep the class challenging, fresh and fun I like to switch up the exercises and music every week or so,” says Gilchriest.
For the full lowdown on how Bodyshred works, I spoke with its creator, Jillian Michaels:
For newbies trying the class for the first time, what should they expect?
They should expect 30 minutes of extremely high-intensity exercise. This program is designed to get the job done in 30 minutes, so you will be working hard, dripping with sweat and gargling your heart throughout the class. I have designed it with my 3-2-1 interval system to get maximum results in a shorter amount of time, but you have to work. It’s not a class for relaxing.
Why is each six-minute series separated into three minutes strength, two minutes cardio and one minute abs?
There are many reasons for this, but I’ll try to limit my answer to the two key points. First off, this allows me to train with holistic equality. Meaning it conditions the body cardiovascularly, builds function, core strength, power, speed, agility and flexibility because we train within all modalities. Second, it allows me the ability create the ultimate HIIT interval. I gradually ramp heart rate up through strength, peak it in cardio, then give an active recovery with core and repeat.
The class is only 30 minutes long. Can I really scorch calories in that amount of time?
Absolutely! This is an extremely high-intensity program. You are blasting your heart rate, working multiple muscle groups at a time, and going from one circuit to the next. The class offers a holistic equality fitness regime that covers all modalities, from balance to speed to power to flexibility to strength and so on. Working out this way torches calories. In addition, Bodyshred isn’t a pre-programmed class, so it changes every time you take it which means your body will never adapt.
(MORE: We Tried This: Barry’s Bootcamp)
Who can take this class?
As with any fitness program, it is always important to check with your doctor before getting started. The Bodyshred program has three levels of difficulty: “basic,” “athletic” and “full throttle,” so there is something for all fitness levels. I’d recommend starting with the basic to test your fitness level, and then progressing from there.
How do you recommend I recover after the workout?
The workout wraps up with a dynamic stretch for cool down. Studies have shown that a whey protein shake is good for recovery to replace aminos, glucose and electrolytes. If you’ve got the nerve, an ice bath or cold shower will significantly speed recovery and reduce soreness. [Note: This reporter did not have the nerve for an ice bath.]
What common mistakes do you see people making at the gym?
They waste their time. Lifting small muscle groups solo, like doing bicep curls alone. Wasting time between sets. Falling into a routine. I could go on for days on this one, but those are a few to think about.
What are the common misconceptions people have about fitness and weight loss overall?
People buy into the scamsters out there who prey on peoples’ apathy with false messages like, You don’t have to count calories. Utter crap.
If you’re up for the challenge, Bodyshred is offered at select Crunch locations in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco.