High-Intensity, Low-Impact Training Will Burn Calories and Protect Your Joints

This version of the high-intensity trend has just as many benefits. Try our 30-minute, at-home workout, and find out for yourself.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is popular because it works—this type of exercise is built around pylometric moves (think jump squats and burpees) and intense bursts of effort. It gets, and keeps, your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time, but it can also seriously stress the spine and joints. Enter HILIT: high-intensity, low-impact training. It's intense in terms of heart rate, calorie burn, and muscle fatigue, but low-impact on the joints. (Swimming is a great example of a HILIT workout.)

"To reap the benefits of those physiological changes that you're making when you push yourself, you have to back off a little bit and give your muscles and connective tissues time to heal," explains Sarah Revenig (shown here), CSCS, a trainer at Soho Strength Lab in New York City. Otherwise you're setting yourself up for exhaustion and potential injury.

A great way to think about HILIT workouts is that your heart rate is going up but your feet are always on the ground. Ready to go for it? Revenig created a workout just for Health.

Bent-Over Dumbbell Row


Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand by sides. With knees slightly bent, hinge forward at the hips until torso is between 45 degrees and parallel to the floor and dumbbells hang below shoulders, wrists facing in. Row dumbbells up next to ribs, drawing elbows straight back and keeping arms tight to sides. Slowly lower weights back to start.

Split Squat


Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Take a step forward with left foot, and a large step backwards with right foot. Keep the front heel flat and lower into a lunge, bringing back knee towards the floor. Stop just short of your back knee touching the ground. Pause for one second and return to standing.

Hammer Curl


Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart holding dumbbells at sides so palms are facing each other. Curl dumbbells to a 90-degree angle, then hold. Then continue curling the right hand to shoulder height, pausing at the top then lowering back down to a 90-degree angle before repeating on the left side.

Lateral Lunge


Stand with feet together and arms extended with hands clasped in front of chest. Take a large step out to the left, immediately lowering into a lunge, sinking hips back and bending left knee to track directly in line with left foot. Keep right leg straight but not locked, with both feet pointing forward. Push off the left foot to straighten left leg, step left foot next to right, and return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.

Overhead Dumbbell Hold and Press


Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, wrists at shoulder-height and a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward. Start to press the dumbbells overhead, pausing at 90 degrees. Then continue pressing until arms are extended. Return to start.



Lay on back with legs bent at a 90-degree angle and knees above hips. Hold arms straight so they are perpendicular to floor. Engage core and extend right leg straight so it is in line with the ground while simultaneously extending left arm back so bicep is by ear. Return to start, then repeat on the opposite side.

Single-Leg Hip Bridge


Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and palms facing down. Lift left leg up to make a right angle with the floor. Raise hips and butt off of the floor. Flex left foot, and press through right heel; hold for 60 seconds. Lower hips and butt almost to the floor; then raise back up. Lower and lift 20 times; then switch sides.

Plank to Push-up/Pushback


Start on all fours with wrists directly under shoulders, toes on floor. Step one foot back and then the other while engaging abs and straightening legs. Use hands to press the floor away. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to heels.

Side Plank Rollover


Start in a forearm-plank position: elbows bent and directly under shoulders, palms flat on the floor, and feet hip-width apart. Hold plank for 30 seconds. Push left hand off the ground and roll to the right—stacking hips, knees, and feet—and hold for 30 seconds. Return to center; repeat on the opposite side. Do 10 more rollovers on each side, without holding the plank.

Bear Crawl


Start in a table top position, then lift knees slightly off floor. Keeping knees bent, move left foot and hand forward, then step forward with the right foot and hand to complete one step.

This article originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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