6 Low Impact HIIT Workouts: High-Intensity Interval Training

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: April 30, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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Low-impact, high-intensity interval exercises are a great way to stay soft on your joints. They are among the most effective techniques to increase aerobic fitness and burn calories.

As a certified fitness trainer, I've incorporated many low-impact HIIT workouts into my workout routine, and the results were tremendous.

I've also coached clients into achieving their fitness journey by tackling low-impact HIIT workouts.

In this article, I will detail my expertise on the best low-impact HIIT workouts and the benefits of these exercises.

Quick Summary

  • The best low-impact HIIT workouts include the reverse lunge and press, uneven front squat and rotational press, jump-free burpees, butterfly squat, kicking plank, and low-impact jumping jacks.
  • Low impact does not imply low intensity, and when done properly, it may provide all of the same advantages as HIIT and other training methods.
  • According to a study on PubMed, low-impact HIIT and regular moderate-intensity exercise can help people lose weight and waist circumference.
  • Low-impact activities are gentler on your body, especially your bones and joints, than high-intensity workouts.

The Best Low-Impact HIIT Workouts

A man doing a low impact HIIT workout

I've put together six high-intensity, low-impact HIIT exercises, which you can perform together for a great workout.

1. Reverse Lunge and Press

The reverse lunge works the quadriceps and gluteus maximus muscle mass (front of the thighs and buttocks).

Adding the single-hand shoulder press focuses on the shoulder muscles and the core strength.

"Pressing the dumbbell over (above the heart) is a sure-fire approach to increase your heart rate while strengthening your core, stability, and balance."

- Lindsey Bomgren, Certified Personal Trainer

Here's how you perform this exercise with good form:

  1. Begin with your feet hip-width apart. The dumbbells should be at shoulder height.
  2. Maintain a strong grip on your wrists while keeping them straight.
  3. Allow the weight to draw the wrists back. Maintain a straight line.
  4. Perform a solid reverse lunge back.
  5. You'll drive up, using momentum to propel the dumbbells higher.
  6. Maintain a firm core. After lowering the weights, we perform a Reverse Lunge with the opposite leg.
  7. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. Timing is everything in this situation. Dumbbells drop as we reverse lunge; dumbbells rise as we drive up.
  8. Repeat for the desired number of reps switching sides.

2. Uneven Front Squat and Rotational Press

A woman doing uneven front squat and rotational press

The front squat works the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus (butt).

The rotating shoulder press, when added, focuses the shoulder muscles, obliques, and core.

Here's how you perform this exercise with good form:

  1. Stand with both feet hip-width apart, toes facing straight forward or slightly away from your body.
  2. Hold a single dumbbell in the left arm, palm towards your body, at your shoulder.
  3. Sit your hips back with the weight in your heels. Lower the hips till they are parallel to your knees. Keep the body weight on your heels and your chest up.
  4. Drive through your heels, stand tall, and thrust your hips forward. Rotate the hips to the right while simultaneously pressing the dumbbell with your left hand above towards the right (rotational push). The left foot should rotate in the path of the dumbbell.
  5. Return to your starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

3. Jump-free Burpees

Burpees are well-known for being a full-body, high-energy, high-intensity workout - ideal for a HIIT program.

While they often incorporate leaping aspects that might tax the joints, I've found a way to modify them to a low-impact exercise.

Here's how you perform this exercise with good form:

  1. Stand tall with both feet hip-width apart and your arms stretched high.
  2. Lower into a squat by pressing your hips back and bending your knees.
  3. Place your hands on the ground and swiftly return to a plank posture. Descend into a push-up right away.
  4. Return to standing by pressing up, walking your feet back into a squat, and stretching your arms overhead to get back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

4. Butterfly Squat

A woman doing butterfly squat

Butterfly squats are one of my favorite bodyweight squat variations.

They're a great way to strengthen your inner thighs, quads, and knees.

Here's how you perform this exercise with good form:

  1. Stand with both feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, arms outstretched in front of your chest, left palm on the top right, and lower into a squat position.
  2. Lower your arms to your hips in preparation for a rapid stand-up, raising your arms overhead and pushing your heels off the floor.
  3. Return to your starting position immediately.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

5. Kicking Plank

The kicking plank is a fun and dynamic way to target your glutes and obliques in one exercise.

Here's how you perform this exercise with good form:

  1. Begin in a table-top posture with your hands stacked squarely under your shoulders and your knees bent and placed directly under your hips.
  2. Step back one leg at a time to form a high plank position with palms and feet hip-width apart.
  3. Kick your left foot to the right while your right hand reaches for your left leg and your torso turns to the left, pivoting on your right foot.
  4. Return to the beginning posture (rotate back to the high plank position).
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

6. Low-impact Jumping Jacks

A woman doing low impact jumping jacks

Jumping jacks are essential for almost every warm-up, but not everyone can do them since they may impact your knees.

Luckily, there's a low-impact alternative that you can do.

Here's how you perform this exercise with good form:

  1. Begin standing with your hands at your sides, much like a typical jumping jack.
  2. Instead of a traditional jumping jack, remove the leap out and alternate one side at a time.
  3. Bend your left knee slightly and move out to the side with your right leg, swinging your right hand above shoulder height.
  4. Step back in and do the same on the other side. This should be a quick action, with your arms and legs retaining strength and force as you go.

Sample Routine

Here’s a sample workout program incorporating the above-mentioned exercises:

  • Reverse lunge and press: 45 seconds
  • Rest: 20 seconds
  • Uneven front squat and rotational press: 45 seconds
  • Rest: 20 seconds
  • Jump-free burpees: 45 seconds
  • Rest: 20 seconds
  • Butterfly squat: 45 seconds
  • Rest: 20 seconds
  • Kicking plank: 45 seconds
  • Rest: 20 seconds
  • Low-impact jumping jacks: 60 seconds
  • Rest: 20 seconds
  • Repeat for 2 rounds

What Is a Low-impact HIIT Workout?

A woman wiping her sweat after doing low impact HIIT workout

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a training style that consists of periods of maximal effort accompanied by periods of reduced intensity or complete rest.

HIIT training may be applied to your favorite type of exercise in various ways, including running, swimming, rowing, elliptical, functional training, and more.

The low-impact HIIT workout (high-intensity low-impact training or HILIT) follows the same framework as traditional HIIT workouts but emphasizes lower-impact activities.

Many HIIT exercises include high-impact burpees, squat jumps, or jumping jacks, ideal for boosting your heart rate and expending large amounts of energy.

Low-impact HIIT exercises typically skip high-impact activities or provide gentler joint alternatives.

While HIIT running, for example, is a great approach to building strength, stamina, and endurance, it may tax the joints. Instead of running, consider utilizing an elliptical, stationary bike, or rowing.

"If you enjoy running and are unwilling to give it up, running on a treadmill is a lower-impact alternative to running outside."

- Cori Ritchey, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer

The Benefits

A man measuring his waist after achieving fat loss

HIIT training has several benefits, but it is frequently preferred as a short, convenient alternative to exercise, with research suggesting that 15–20 minutes of HIIT training may have the same (if not greater) effect on endurance and fitness as 45 minutes of traditional cardio.

Low-impact HIIT exercises raise your heart rate, burn calories, and increase cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength while putting less strain on your joints.

1. Encourages Fat Loss

One study included 13 separate research including 424 overweight and obese people.

According to this study on PubMed, low-impact HIIT and regular moderate-intensity exercise can help people lose weight and waist circumference [1].

HIIT Workout Article: Lower Body HIIT Workout

2. Keeps Your Metabolic Rate Higher For Hours

A smiling woman doing her workout

According to several studies, HIIT raises metabolism for hours after training, even more than running and weight lifting [2].

This is excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC, also known as afterburn), a substantially higher oxygen intake rate following intense exercise [3].

3. Improves General Health

HIIT is more than simply a method for losing weight. It can also benefit your overall health. A review of 50 independent research discovered that HIIT lowers blood sugar levels [4].

Further study indicates it can lower blood pressure and resting heart rate in overweight and obese people [5].

FAQs

Can a HIIT Workout Be Low Impact?

Yes, HIIT workouts can be low-impact. Low impact indicates that there is little or no impact on the joint. These motions put no strain or stress on the bones and joints.

Are Low-Impact HIIT Workouts Good for Weight Loss?

Yes, low-impact HIIT workouts are good for weight loss. Certain exercises can be startling to the body, particularly on weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips.

What Type of HIIT Is Most Effective?

The most effective type of HIIT is the full-body HIIT workout. This interval exercise is more efficient than a long cardio session in shedding weight and developing muscles.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28401638/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27747847/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14599232/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26481101/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27797726/
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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