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man performing renegade row

It’s a common misconception that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and high-impact exercises go hand in hand.

The reverse — that low-impact training is necessarily low-intensity and designed only for folks who are injured or ailing in some way — is yet another training myth.

“High-impact moves are certainly fun to watch and intriguing to try. But they’re not for everyone,” says Anna Taylor, NASM-CPT, USAW, a Life Time personal trainer. “If you are not ready for the jumping and running but still want to feel the effects of HIIT training, there are plenty of options to choose from.”

“Think explosive without the jumping effect,” says Taylor. “For example, instead of a jump squat, do a body-weight squat with a focus on moving fast on the way up without letting your feet off the ground.”

If you’re worried that shorting the jumps will shortchange the effects, Taylor wants to put your mind at ease. “The great news is that you will still see the same benefits as if you were doing a high-impact HIIT workout.”

The magic of HIIT training is not in the impact but in the intervals — how hard or fast you move during the work intervals and how efficiently you recover during the rest intervals.

“You are the manager of how fast you will move for that low-impact exercise,” she explains. “Your working sets will be an all-out effort, and your rest breaks help you recover for the next round. When done correctly you get the benefits of increased strength and endurance, along with fat-burning and metabolism-boosting powers.”

The Workout

Life Time trainer Anna Taylor designed the following five-move, low-impact, dumbbell-based workout with one thing in mind: “Move fast,” she says. The goal is to perform as many reps as possible in 45 seconds, knowing that you’ll be able to rest twice that long between moves.

Remember: Fast movement does not mean sloppy movement. Focus on great-for-you form, and work through a full range of motion in each rep. High quality first, high speed second.

Complete two rounds of the following circuit, performing the movements in succession. Do as many good-form reps as possible in 45 seconds, then rest 90 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

Use two equal-weighted dumbbells if possible. If you have only one, perform the exercises on one side of the body in round one and switch to the other side in round two.

Dumbbell Thruster

  1. Hold two dumbbells at shoulder height, then squat down as low as you comfortably can.
  2. Use the power of your hips and glutes to explode back to standing, pressing the dumbbells overhead in one fluid motion.
  3. Lower the weights to your shoulders and repeat.

Dumbbell Renegade Row

illustration renegade row
  1. Take a high-plank position, with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Shift your weight to the left as you raise the dumbbell in your right hand to perform a single-arm row.
  3. Reverse the movement, planting the dumbbell on the floor. Shift your weight and repeat on the opposite side.
  4. Minimize rolling or tilting in the hips by engaging your core to stabilize yourself.
  5. Repeat, alternating sides.

Dumbbell Hang Power Clean

  1. Stand tall, holding the dumbbells at your sides. Bend your knees and push your hips back, lowering the dumbbells toward the floor as you assume a quarter-squat position.
  2. Powerfully extend your hips and knees to move the weights upward — imagine jumping without a jump, keeping the feet planted on the floor.
  3. Let your elbows bend and “catch” the weight at shoulder height, resuming a quarter-squat position.
  4. Stand fully, lower the weights to your sides, and repeat. (For additional form tips, check out “How to Power Clean“.)


illustration push up
  1. Assume a plank position, with hands slightly wider than shoulder width.
  2. Keeping your body straight and your head in a neutral position, bend your arms and retract your shoulder blades to lower yourself until your arms form 90-degree angles. Aim elbows out about 45 degrees from your body, as if you’re pointing them to the back corners of the room.
  3. Reverse the movement, pushing yourself back up, and repeat.
  4. Adjust the difficulty by elevating your hands on a step, bench, or counter, or by lowering to your knees.

Reverse Lunge With Power Knee Drive

illustration reverse lunge with power knee drive
  1. With your feet shoulder width apart, step your left foot backward and bend both knees. Lower yourself until the front knee forms a 90-degree angle and the back knee is near the floor.
  2. Reverse the movement, drawing your left foot up with control. As you come back to standing, raise the left leg in front of you in a high-knee position.
  3. Return to the starting position, and repeat on the opposite side, lunging back and then drawing the right leg forward into a high-knee position.
  4. Repeat, alternating sides.

This article originally appeared as “Low Impact, High Value” in the April 2021 issue of Experience Life.


Air Bike Sprint Workout

An air bike, also known as a fan bike, assault bike, or Airdyne, is a stationary bike with handles that uses a fan to increase resistance to match the force you exert. In other words, the harder you pedal, the harder it becomes to pedal.

Personal trainer and group fitness coach Anna Taylor suggests the following air bike workout as a way to maximize intensity while minimizing impact. Prepare for breathlessness and jelly legs.

Perform five to eight sets:

  • Sprint at your maximum effort (and thereby resistance) for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Rest for 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Repeat.
Illustrations by: Kveta
Maggie Fazeli Fard

Maggie Fazeli Fard, RKC, is an Experience Life senior editor.

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