Fact: High intensity does not necessarily mean high impact. There are lots of ways to get a challenging, heart-pumping, full-body cardio workout without pummeling your joints, ligaments, and tendons. And we’ve got a prime example right here: A 20-minute total-body cardio routine with absolutely no jumping.
When it comes to creating a low-impact cardio workout, there are several solid ways to make things feel intense—and thus make yourself a little breathless—without any jumping or running. Of course, you can add weight (like dumbbells or kettlebells) to exercises to increase the demand on your muscles. But there are ways to elevate the cardio aspect even without any equipment.
For one, you can amp up the tempo at which you perform reps, as long as your form stays solid. That’s “pretty much the most effective way to get your heart rate going,” certified personal trainer Alicia Jamison, CPT, trainer at Bodyspace Fitness in New York City, tells SELF.
Another option: Build a workout with compound movements, which are exercises that involve multiple joints and stimulate large muscle groups. As Jamison explains it, “the more muscle groups you can get involved in the exercise, the higher the intensity, and the more you'll start to feel a little breathless.” Examples of compound movements include push-ups, lunges, deadlifts, and squats.
In sum, jumping is not your only option for getting in good cardio, says Jamison.
Exhibit A: this low-impact, full-body cardio workout, created by Jamison, that combines a fast tempo with compound movements for a seriously sweaty routine. Because the workout follows a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) format, which encourages all-out performance, your heart rate will likely climb quickly and stay elevated throughout the workout, making this a great choice for maintaining and improving your cardiovascular endurance.
You’ll also get doses of strength training, muscular endurance, and hypertrophy (muscle building) in the routine, says Jamison. In the process, you won’t pound your joints, ligaments, or tendons, which could be appealing if you have a history of pain or injury, or if you’ve been doing a lot of high-impact exercise lately and just need to take a break from explosive movements to help your body recover.
Whatever your reason for picking this routine, just be sure to check with your doctor first if you have a medical condition or history of pain and injury, especially in your hips, knees, or ankles; they can advise whether a workout like this is a good idea.
If you are okayed for this workout, make sure you do a warm-up first so you don’t start with cold muscles. Five minutes of dynamic stretching and glute activation work can do the trick, says Jamison.
Feeling ready to sweat? Keep scrolling for everything you need to know for this full-body cardio workout.
What you need: An exercise mat for comfort and a sturdy box, bench, or step.
Demoing the moves below are Rachel Denis (GIF 1), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York State powerlifting records; Teresa Hui (GIF 2), a native New Yorker who has run more than 150 road races, including 16 full marathons; Tiana Jones (GIF 3), a dance and fitness instructor based in New York City; Amanda Wheeler (GIF 4), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength; and Shauna Harrison (GIF 5), a San Francisco Bay Area–based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF.
The quicker you move your legs, the more of a cardio challenge this will become. Make sure to keep your core engaged and back flat throughout. If you have to slow down to maintain form, that’s fine.
The lunge is a compound movement that challenges the big muscles in your lower body, including your quads and your glutes.
Along with honing your agility, the lateral shuffle also works a bunch of your lower-body muscles, including your hip abductors—the small muscles which make up your side butt.
This is a push-up regression, which means it’s less challenging than a regular push-up. The more elevated your upper body is, the easier it will be.
This move really lights up your core while challenging your coordination. If the move is too difficult, you can drop your knees to the ground after each rep.
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