When you think of a HIIT cardio workout, images of exercises like burpees and jump squats probably come to mind. But contrary to popular belief, you don't need to bounce off the walls (or sacrifice your knees) to torch a ton of calories and get your heart hammering.
"It's a common misconception that a workout has to include a lot of jumping and thunderous movement to be considered high intensity," says Ben Palocko, ACSM-EP, a certified exercise physiologist and owner of Ben Palocko Fitness. "The HI in HIIT stands for 'high-intensity,' not high-impact."
Yep, you can ramp up the intensity of your cardio workout — without jumping — and still burn loads of calories. But how? "By adding exercises and/or the number of sets and repetitions," Palocko says.
In other words, to maintain intensity during a low-impact routine, you need to increase the duration and frequency of the moves, which, in turn, will boost your caloric output.
An effective calorie burner, low-impact cardio is a must in any well-balanced workout routine, since it also helps with active recovery for bones and soft tissues and will decrease the likelihood of training injury over time, Palocko says.
20-Minute Low-Impact HIIT Cardio Workout
Designed by Palocko, this 20-minute, low-impact, calorie-burning HIIT cardio workout doesn't require an ounce of jumping (or equipment), but it's bound to make you sweaty.
Do: each of the moves in order for the given number of reps and sets. To keep your heart rate up, rest for 15 seconds or less between each move.
Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.
1. Sumo Squat
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed out at a 45-degree angle. (If the position feels uncomfortable, move your feet in a little closer).
- Clasp your hands together at your chest.
- Keeping your back straight, push your hips back and bend your knees out over your toes to squat down. Thinking about sliding down a wall, keeping your back as straight as possible and avoiding leaning forward or sticking your butt out.
- Lower until your your thighs are parallel to the floor (or as low as you can go).
- Activate your core, glutes and quads to propel your body back upright, driving your weight through your feet to return to a standing position.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement and repeat.
Lateral Lunge to Forward Kick
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Keeping your feet parallel with one another, take a big step to the side with your right foot.
- While keeping your left leg straight, bend your right knee, sit your hips back and load all of your body weight into the right heel.
- As you press away from the right foot, find your balance on your left leg.
- Kick your right foot out in front of you, aiming to reach hip-height.
- While rotating your torso, reach your left hand out to tap your right foot at its highest point in the kick.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
3. Bear Crawl
- Begin on all fours with your hands and knees on the floor.
- Curl your toes under and push through your hands and toes so your knees come off the floor an inch or two. Keep your core engaged and hips level so you don't stick your butt into the air.
- Crawl forward with your right hand and left foot.
- Then, crawl with your left hand and right knee.
- Continue to crawl forward, alternating sides.
4. Curtsy Lunge
- Stand with your feet together and your hands clasped at your chest.
- Step back with your right leg, crossing it behind your left.
- Bend your knees and lower your hips until your left thigh is just about parallel to the floor, as if you were curtsying. Make sure your left knee does not carry forward past your toes.
- Maintaining hips and shoulders square to the front, squeeze through your glutes and quads to stand upright.
- Repeat on opposite side and continue alternating legs for 20 total reps.
5. Plank With Shoulder Tap
- Start in a high plank, with your arms fully extended and your body in a straight line from head to toes.
- Brace your core as you lift your left arm and reach across your body to gently tap your right shoulder. Keep your hips square to the ground and don’t rotate.
- Place your left hand back down on the ground.
- Lift your right hand and lightly tap your left shoulder.
- Continue alternating shoulder taps at a slow, controlled pace.
6. Side Plank With Leg Lift
- Lie on your right side.
- Press up onto your right hand and extend your arm. Align your shoulder over your wrist.
- Stagger your feet on the ground, but keep them in line with each other.
- Pushing down through your hand and feet, lift your hips off the ground.
- Lift your top leg up toward the ceiling.
- Immediately lower your top leg while maintaining the side plank position.
- Do all reps, then slowly lower back down and repeat on the opposite side.
If this move is too challenging, you can either drop to your elbow or drop to your bottom knee and keep the top leg straight to lift it.
- Lie face down on a mat with your arms stretched above your head.
- Raise your arms, chest and legs several inches off the ground and pause for a few seconds, focusing on squeezing your shoulders and glutes.
- Your neck should align with your spine, so keep your gaze straight down on the floor.
- Then, lower back to starting position and repeat.