This Workout Will Make You Sweat Without Hurting Your Joints

Full-body workouts don’t necessarily have to be high impact to be effective. It might seem that way since lots of trainers like to program explosive moves like burpees and jump squats into their workouts to add bursts of cardio. But there are other ways to get your heart rate up that don’t involve landing on the floor over and over.

“It is possible to have both low impact and high intensity in the same workout,” Nate Bahr, a certified personal trainer and corporate personal trainer at Anytime Fitness who has experience working with people with chronic back and neck pain, tells SELF. It’s all about choosing exercises that minimize impact on your joints while maximizing work time compared to rest. That’s what he kept in mind while creating the below workout for SELF readers.

“An interval circuit like this one is a good way to control the work-to-rest ratio and maintain a high heart rate,” Bahr says. “The 10-second rest in between exercises is just enough time to get in position and prepare for the next exercise but not enough time to fully recover.” The exercises cover the upper body, lower body, and core “and include exercises that will keep the heart rate elevated,” making it a full-body workout.

What the workout doesn’t include are jumps, turns, and side-to-side movements. “Many people who are looking for a low-impact workout have joint pain or are recovering from injuries, and many times movements like those can cause irritation or aggravation in those situations,” Bahr says. (To make this workout both low impact and low intensity, he suggests increasing the rest time between exercises and sets, and doing fewer sets.)

If you do have any joint issues, are currently injured, or are recovering from a recent injury, always make sure to talk to your doctor before doing this or any other new workout. While this workout is indeed considered low impact, that doesn’t mean it’s right or safe for everyone. As you work out, take note of what sort of movements generally agree and disagree with your body, Bahr suggests. “One person with knee pain might be OK with a twisting motion while another is not. If you aren’t sure what to avoid with a certain type of injury, always defer judgment to a medical professional.” If a movement doesn’t feel right, stop doing it. “It is better to cut a single workout short than to push through pain and end up not being able to work out for a month to allow your injury to heal. The more you listen to your body, the more awareness you will gain and be more likely to be able to tell the difference between soreness and pain, but again err on the side of caution if certain movements are painful when they shouldn’t be.”

If you’re in the market for a low-impact total-body workout, give this one from Bahr a try.

The Workout

What you’ll need: One set of medium-weight dumbbells. The exact weight you’ll need depends on your current strength, so if you’re not sure, test out a few different weights to see what works. Do a few reps of each move, and think about if you can realistically maintain proper form using that weight for 40 seconds (the amount of time you’ll do each move before resting).


Do each exercise for 40 seconds, resting 10 seconds in between. Do 4 rounds, resting 30 seconds in between rounds.

  • Goblet squat: 40 seconds
  • Lunge With Spinal Rotation: 40 seconds
  • Bent-over row: 40 seconds
  • Flutter kick: 40 seconds
  • Single-leg deadlift: 40 seconds
  • Forearm plank: 40 seconds

Here’s how to do each move:

Demoing the moves below are Rachel Denis, a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York state powerlifting records; Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies; and Crystal Williams, a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City.

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