High-intensity exercises are an excellent way to build muscle, lower anxiety levels, improve your mood and stay physically fit. Not everyone feels comfortable jogging on a treadmill or jumping rope, however. If that’s your case, a high-intensity low-impact workout may be an ideal solution.
What Is a High-Intensity Low-Impact Workout?
This type of workout combines intense physical activity with exercises designed to put less stress on your joints and bones. You can get your heart pumping without needing to jump or run hard.
Make no mistake: Low-impact high-intensity exercise sessions make you sweat. They involve vigorous activities that challenge your muscles and boost your heart rate significantly. Expect your breathing to accelerate and your muscles to feel like putty.
The main thing that makes low-impact activities stand out is that they keep your feet planted. You move quickly, but your legs don’t slam into the ground. As an example, jogging is considered high-impact while brisk walking is low-impact exercise.
Who Can Benefit From Low-Impact Exercises?
Always discuss any health concerns and exercise plans regarding joints and muscles with your doctor. As a general rule of thumb, you may find low-impact exercises more comfortable if:
- You have arthritis, osteoporosis or other painful conditions.
- High-impact exercises make your feet hurt.
- You’re just getting started with a regular exercise program.
- You’re recovering from an injury.
- You feel better after low-impact activities.
High-impact exercises have some benefits, but they’re not for everyone. You need to listen to your body and avoid hurting yourself. Following a high-intensity low-impact workout routine allows you to build up muscles and joints gradually.
What Exercises Can You Include in Your Workout?
Don’t confuse “low impact” with “low intensity.” There are plenty of challenging exercises available to build an intense workout that leaves you feeling the burn — but not the pain.
Low-Impact Cardio Exercises
Cardio workouts focus on getting your heart pumping and pushing oxygen through your body. Try some of these energizing activities.
1. Sumo Squat
Squats put your lower body and core muscles to the test. To do this exercise, place your feet apart with your toes angled slightly outward. Keep your chest and back straight and extend your arms forward.
Then, bend your knees, lower your butt and touch the floor with your hands. Keep your feet planted and push yourself back up to a squatting position. Repeat this activity for 30-45 seconds, or about eight times.
2. Forward Lunge (With or Without Weights)
Lunges focus on your hamstrings, butt and glutes. They’re deceptively easy to perform and get leg muscles burning quickly.
Begin with your feet close together. Take a step forward with your left foot. Keeping your core vertical, bend your knees and lower your body so the rear knee is close to the ground (but not touching). Return to the starting position and repeat for 20-30 seconds, then switch legs.
The great thing about lunges for a high-intensity low-impact workout is how versatile they are. Add free weights or tension bands to increase difficulty. For extra burn, return to vertical after each lunge.
3. Sideways Lunge
In practice, this exercise is the low-impact version of jumping jacks. It gives your muscles the same intense workout, but you don’t need to jump in the air.
Keep one foot planted firmly on the ground. Take a wide step to the side with the other foot, bending the knee so your legs form a triangle. Return to the standing position and repeat. After 20-30 seconds, switch legs.
Many types of dance workouts use this step, repeating it quickly for excellent cardio. For an extra challenge, when you bend your knee, reach out with your opposite arm to touch the toes.
Lifting free weights makes your muscles work hard without requiring heavy impact. To stay safe, start with bodyweight exercises, exercise bands or smaller free weights and work your way up.
This type of bodyweight exercise is virtually identical to a conventional pushup, but you hold the plank position longer. It doesn’t take long for your muscles to notice the difference. Even better, you exercise your core muscles at the same time that you’re strengthening your upper body.
For a high-intensity low-impact workout, some fitness enthusiasts follow a more demanding version with a forearm plank instead of a pushup. To do this, lower one elbow at a time, stay in a lowered plank and then reverse the process to get back on your hands.
5. Dumbbells or Free Weights
The list of exercises you can do with free weights is practically endless:
- Bicep curls
- Dumbbell rows
- Shoulder presses
- Calf raises with free weights
- Weighted squats
Heavier weights generally help build more muscle, but combining lighter weights with more/faster reps is usually better for increasing your heart rate.
If you're looking for some great high-intensity, low-impact exercises, pick up some dumbbells and get to it!
6. Battle Ropes
If you’re exercising at a gym, you may want to give battle ropes a try. These heavy ropes pair well with aerobic activities and give your whole body a workout. You can do overhead slams, swings, waves or lower body exercises with a twist.
High-Intensity Interval Training
Some exercises that you normally associate with relaxing workouts can easily fit in a high-intensity low-impact workout just by notching up the resistance factor. Here are a few ideas:
- Brisk walking (outdoors or treadmill)
- Exercising with an elliptical machine
HIIT workouts involve several stages. First, you warm up (about 10 minutes). Next comes four minutes of vigorous activity, such as fast swimming or cycling up an incline. Aim for a heart rate of 85%-90% of your maximum.
Afterward, cool down with three minutes of low-intensity activity, such as walking. Repeat this cycle three or four times.
What Goals Should You Set With a High-Intensity Low-Impact Workout Program?
The tricky part of high-intensity exercise is that success doesn’t revolve around a number. Your goal isn’t to perform X repetitions; it's to reach your target heart rate and keep it there.A healthy lifestyle doesn’t always translate into dropping a certain number of pounds, either. Body measurements can reveal that you’re making excellent progress in building muscles and getting fit. ZOZOFIT is helpful for keeping track of your progress. See how the ZOZOFIT app with the ZOZOSUIT supports high-intensity low-impact workout programs.