6 Low-Impact Moves to Do When You Can't Get Through Your Usual Workout

No matter how dedicated you are to your workout, there are some days your body just isn't available to show up for you in full force. When you're too sore or too tired (or just plain unmotivated) to do your usual workout, you don't have to take the day off.

Don't skip your workout, modify it!
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Kasey Kotarak, a NASM-certified trainer with Fit Body Boot Camp, suggests you swap in these low-impact, low-intensity moves instead.

1. Instead of: Jump Squats

Try: Full-Body Extensions

Full-body extensions give you the benefits of squat jumps without the impact.
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The fluid movement and explosive power of a jump squat burns lots of calories and strengthens your entire lower body, but if the high-impact nature of the exercise is too much for you, perform the movement with your feet rooted firmly on the ground in a modified jump squat, aka full-body extension.

  1. Begin with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lower into a squat by sending your hips back and bending your knees. Keep arms straight down at your sides, chest lifted, core pulled in tight.
  3. Rise up onto your toes and straighten your legs, pushing your hips forward and up. As you rise, swing your arms straight up overhead.
  4. Slowly release back down to start, bringing the weight back into your heels and pushing your triceps back as you swing the arms down.

2. Instead of: Jumping Jacks

Try: Low-Impact Jacks

Take the jump out of jumping jacks to make them easier on your knees.
Image Credit: Kasey Kotarak/LIVESTRONG.com

Tone down a high-impact jumping jack by alternating legs in this low-intensity version that still gets you moving.

  1. Start with your feet together, hands down at your sides.
  2. Step your left foot out to the side and swing both arms up.
  3. Bring both arms down.
  4. Repeat with the right foot.

3. Instead of: Burpees

Try: Half Burpees

Cutting down on the moving parts of burpees makes them much more doable.
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Yes, burpees are one of the most popular full-body exercises, but they can sure do a number on your joints — and wear out your cardiovascular system pretty quickly too. It demands balance, mobility and a strong core, and when you not at 100 percent, it gets exponentially harder.

Kotarak suggests removing the impact and the push-up to perform a half burpee. "You can add impact/jumping in wherever you are comfortable or take it all out by stepping it out," she says.

  1. Begin in a squat with both hands on the floor directly underneath your shoulders.
  2. Step back to a high plank, one foot at a time, keeping your core engaged and your hips level.
  3. Return to a squat one foot at a time.

Tip

Have a little more energy left in the tank? Add a full-body extension to the end of the half burpee but standing up and raising your arms overhead before starting over at step 1.

4. Instead of: Mountain Climbers

Try: Bicycle Crunches

Bicycle crunches are a bit like mountain climbers on your back.
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The mountain climber exercise is a body-weight cardio workout staple that people love to hate. It's performed by bringing the knees up toward the chest, one at a time, in rapid succession, for a burst of 60 seconds or less.

But sustaining this running plank can be tough on your core, back and knees, but Kotarak recommends two low-impact alternatives to this great, full-body exercise. Bicycles focus on the abdominals (specifically your obliques) and build hip stability with less emphasis on balance and strain on the knees. You can do them either lying down or standing.

  1. Lay flat on your back, legs extended. Engage your abs by tilting your hips up, pressing your lower back to the floor.
  2. Lift your shoulders without pulling your head or neck, and lift your legs about 6 inches from the floor.
  3. Squeeze one knee in toward the chest and twist to bring the opposite elbow to that knee.
  4. Alternate back and forth. If you need to modify you can drop one leg down to the floor in between each rep. Make sure to keep the core engaged and to keep breathing.

5. Or Try: Standing Bicycles

Save your neck by doing bicycle crunches standing up.
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For an even easier version of mountain climbers that still focuses on balance and core strength, you can try them standing to help reduce strain on your abdominal muscles, neck and shoulders.

  1. Stand tall and engage your core. Bring both hands behind your head, elbows out.
  2. Lift your left knee up and across your body as you bring your right elbow down and across to meet it.
  3. Come back to standing at the starting position.
  4. Now lift your right knee up and across your body as you bring your left elbow down and across to meet it.
  5. Alternate back and forth.

Tip

Depending on how strong or agile you're feeling on any given day, this exercise can vary in intensity from a slow march to a fast, high-knee jog.

6. Instead of: Push-Ups

Try: Modified Push-Ups

Dropping to your knees for push-ups gives your core a break, while you still get an effective chest workout.
Image Credit: Kasey Kotarak/LIVESTRONG.com

Push-ups are the best and most effective upper-body, body-weight exercises for your chest. A standard push-up uses works your arms, chest, back, core and legs all at the same time. But if you're sore, recovering from an injury, are just starting out or want to lighten up the intensity, drop your knees so that your core and legs don't have to work as hard.

  1. Start in a modified plank on your knees with your hands underneath your shoulders, core pulled in tight. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your knees.
  2. Bend your arms to a 45-degree angle to your rib cage, lowering your chest as close to the floor as you can.
  3. Press back up to start.
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