Not much time has passed since high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts first emerged. These high-powered routines promised powerful results while allowing you to work out for a fraction of the time.
What’s not to love? As it turns out, there’s a lot that’s not to love when it comes to the way HIIT can impact your joints. Last year, HIIT workouts went low-impact, and for a very good reason.
What Is HIIT?
With the emergence of HIIT came an increased focus on proper rest and recovery, necessitated by the intensity of those workouts. While proper recovery is essential regardless of the workout involved, there still remains the fact that some commonplace HIIT movements are anything but kind to your joints. That’s where high-intensity low impact training comes in.
HILIT workouts, as the name suggests, seek to keep the same level of intensity while eliminating or reducing those movements which cause the most stress to your joints. No burpees or jumping exercises are to be found here. HILIT exercises either keep both feet on the ground or ensure your joints move in a natural, low-impact manner.
Instead, the workouts below are built to bring your sweat out, push you to your limits, and most importantly, ensure that you can keep pushing yourself for years to come. HILIT workouts are functionally identical to HIIT, aside from the fact that high-impact movements are removed.
Benefits of HILIT vs HIIT
Many of the benefits which make HIIT so attractive carry over to HILIT workouts as well. The medical benefits of HIIT workouts are well documented. A medical study found that a cohort engaging in twelve weeks of HIIT training had similar improvements in oxygen intake and metabolism to a group engaged in moderate-intensity running exercises.
‘Similar improvements’ is a neutral-sounding statement until you realize that the sprinting group spent one-fifth the amount of time working out as the running group.
HIIT workouts can showcase impressive results for those who can repeatedly perform them but may remain out of reach for those with bone, joint, or nerve issues. HILIT makes these workouts accessible and sustainable without sacrificing any of the effectiveness that gave their predecessor a place in the spotlight.
Stand-Alone HILIT Exercises
The following are stand-alone activities that may be developed into a HILIT workout. Perform the suggested activity at the maximum intensity you can muster, then take a brief break, repeating over 10 to 20 minutes.
Water-based activities can make for a physical challenge that’s easy on the joints. Swimming burns more calories than running for similar spans of time, a feature that gets enhanced even further when HILIT is brought into the mix.
To add a bit of variety to your workout, you can alternate laps with different kinds of swimming strokes or grab yourself a kickboard and hold it close to your chest, relying on your legs and abs to create a high-powered lower body workout that’s easy on your knees.
Swimming might be a great workout, but it requires a pool, which may not always be available depending on your location or the season. Cycling can either be done outdoors on your own bike or on workout machines indoors at the gym, making it a great all-season workout.
Try going at your maximum speed, or at a strenuous pace, for 30 seconds, then complement that with a 15-second break until you start to feel the exhaustion set in or the suggested time above has elapsed. For added variety, try to change up the incline or surface you’re cycling on when outside or the resistance of your machine when working out indoors.
Walking Lunges With Optional Weight
If you have a good deal of space for forward movement, walking lunges can activate both your abs and legs in a workout that, so long as you are careful with your kneel, will remain low impact. If you want to throw some oblique activation into the mix, grab a kettlebell.
Move the kettlebell in an upside-down V movement in tandem with your lunge. Start at the height of the upside-down V and move it down to the side of the V opposite the leg going down.
As you come out of the lunge, move it back up and repeat on the other side. Rinse and repeat until you want to take a break. Feel free to take the kettlebell lunge more slowly than a regular walking lunge.
HILIT Circuit Exercises
Yoga is a great way to improve strength and flexibility in a low-impact way. The yoga circuit here uses traditional high-intensity moves with low-intensity yoga poses to be held during rest periods to create a uniquely integrated workout. Give these poses a quick Google if you need a glance at the proper positioning.
Start with Downward Dog and hold for 10 seconds, then rest. Then, complete 15 reps of Mountain Climbers and rest in Cobra for 10 seconds. Hold the Plank position for 15 seconds. If you need an extra rest, transition into Child’s Pose instead of Downward Dog. Do this nine more times for a perfect 10.
The yoga poses above are chosen specifically to reduce the strain placed alternately on the upper and lower body. This stretch also improves flexibility and encourages the dissipation of lactic acid. For extra intensity or isolation, you can turn the Downward Dog pose into an alternating static leg lift and turn the plank into an alternating side plank.
Full Body Plank Circuit
This exercise keeps you close to the ground while still isolating a good deal of your major muscle groups in a short sequence. In fact, by the end of this full-body circuit, you’ll have performed more than a few full-body rotations.
First, hold a plank push-Up for 15 seconds, followed by resting for 25 seconds. Move to a 15-second side plank and then rest for 25 seconds. Perform 15 seconds of Russian twists and then rest for 25 seconds. Switch to a side plank on the alternative side, and then relax for 25 seconds.
To perform this exercise, repeat four times, each time reducing your rest periods by five seconds. By the end, you’ll be in motion longer than you’re staying still, and the sense of relief and satisfaction that comes at the end of that final side-plank will be well earned.
Squat Lunge Combination Circuit
The last two circuits have functionally been from a close-to-Earth position. This standing circuit gets you up and keeps you there. Grab a set of dumbbells that you will be comfortable with by the end of this intense workout.
To start, do 20 seconds of squats followed by a rest for 20 seconds. Then, execute 20 seconds of lunges followed by 20 seconds of rest. Next, do some squats with an overhead press for 20 seconds, and then, you guessed it, 20 seconds of rest.
To perform this circuit, repeat the process five to eight times, depending on how ambitious you’re feeling. While the squat with an overhead press is the only movement in this workout that explicitly requires a set of dumbbells, keeping them in your hands during your initial squat and lunges is an excellent way to keep your whole body engaged in this routine.
Final Tips for Engaging in HILIT Workouts
You know all about HILIT, but freshen up on these tips before going through these routines.
Recovery Matters: These workouts showcase high results. The negative side of this is that overtraining is a very real possibility, especially if you normally work out several days a week. When switching to or integrating HILIT, undertraining is a better gamble than risking injury. Regular stretches, active recovery methods, and cooldowns are all ways to ensure your time out of the gym is just as productive as your time in the gym.
Health Matters: Some of us look to HILIT to help preserve our joints. But, if you are looking at these workouts to find an answer for other health problems, be sure to engage with a healthy degree of caution. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits if a particular movement doesn’t gel with you. In particular, though HILIT can promote cardiovascular health, high-intensity exercise can be dangerous when mingled with extremely high blood pressure and heart conditions.
Dress for Your Workout: With long-duration workouts, it’s easy to layer up and remove layers over the course of your workout. With quick routines like these, every second matters. Materials that react well to your body’s heat and don’t soak through easily, like merino wool, make the best gear whose intensity matches that of your workout. Merino wool has thermoregulating abilities to create workout wear that helps you train in comfort for longer.
In the final analysis, low-impact HIIT workouts ditch a few potentially dangerous exercises to offer a more accessible and joint-friendly exercise routine. Get the same competitive benefits as high-intensity training without the looming threat of injuries.
Whether switching completely over to HILIT or adding it to your existing routine, your muscles and joints will thank you.