Apart from being sore and sweaty, there's one thing I expect from every HIIT workout — being told multiple times by the trainer to aim for "soft landings" after every hop, skip, or jump.
I've experienced this instruction during in-person classes in the past, and recently, even when following at-home workouts on my favorite fitness apps.
I've always listened — assuming that landing on my feet with force would irritate my already sensitive knees — but I was curious to hear directly from a trainer exactly why soft landings are recommended.
So, I reached out to Andrew Mariani, a NASM-certified personal trainer and coach at Fhitting Room in New York City for some answers.
First, we should all know what "soft landing" really means and how to do it.
"Soft landing refers to landing/returning from the top of a dynamic movement," Mariani says. "Landing 'softly' indicates to the athlete to put priority on their joints."
To focus on landing softly, Mariani suggests imagining you are jumping up and down on the second floor of a home (which many of you might already be doing when working out at home) while someone is asleep on the floor below you.
"Soft landings are important to protect joints, while keeping muscles active for support of muscular and skeletal structure," he explains. "The less pressure an athlete puts on their joints during the eccentric portion of a dynamic movement, it creates more longevity for continuing to perform HIIT classes."
This preventative measure also helps ward off potential injuries.
For example, Mariani says a nonsoft landing on a hard surface — like a wooden box during box jumps — could create knee joint issues, which could then impact your ability to perform squats.
So yes, those soft landings are a priority! You should also make time for a proper HIIT warmup to prep your body for hard work — AKA don't jump into an intense set of burpees after sitting on the couch for a few hours.
Mariani adds that you should "scale appropriately" during high-impact moves to protect your joints, as well as stretch after class to promote joint health and longevity.