5-Move Low Impact High Intensity Workout

by Jessica Smith
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5-Move Low Impact High Intensity Workout

Get all of the body-shaping benefits of high-intensity training without the impact with this no-equipment-needed workout

High intensity interval training (aka HIIT) is making major headlines lately for all of its incredible benefits, including maximum calorie burn (both during and after a workout), anti-aging effects (did you know it can help boost your body’s natural production of human growth hormone?) and belly-fat-blasting power. There is no doubt that HIIT is a super effective way to work out, but many typical high-intensity moves, like squat thrusts, burpees, tuck jumps, etc., can not only be tough to do, but they can also be tough on the joints too—especially if you have existing conditions or previous injuries. The good news: You don’t have to jump to get your heart rate into the HIIT zone. The following low-impact moves can help you pump up your fat-burning potential without the impact.

The Low Impact HIIT Cardio Circuit

For best results, perform these exercises in a circuit format. Complete each exercise for the recommended time, allowing for 30-60 seconds of rest before moving on to the next move. Do three full rounds of the complete circuit for a full, low-impact cardio session. Depending on how long your rest periods are, this full workout can be completed in approximately 15-20 minutes.

A few training notes:

  • In order to get the full benefits of HIIT, you’ll need to really push your intensity level during the moves.
  • Focus on making your movements as quick as possible, performing as many reps as possible (AMRAP) without losing good form.
  • Aim for maximum effort during the interval (talking should be difficult, and you should need to catch your breath by the time the minute is over).
  • Take 30 seconds, or longer if needed, to catch your breath before moving on to the next exercise.
  • As you become more fit, your recovery time should shrink, and the moves will begin to feel easier, so keep looking for new ways to challenge your intensity level.

Low Impact HIIT Move #1: Single-Leg Running

Reps: AMRAP for 30 seconds on each side

Benefits: Blast fat faster—without the impact on your knees or hips—with this coordination-building cardio move!

How to:

1. Begin in a lunge position, with left foot forward and right arm bent in front of body and left arm back.

single-leg running A

2. Quickly bend right knee in front of hip as right arm swings back, bringing left arm in front.

single-leg running B

3. Repeat as quickly as possible for 30 seconds, then complete on opposite side.

Low Impact HIIT Move #2: No-Jump Jack

Reps: AMRAP for one minute

Benefits: Targets the inner thighs, and provides calorie-burning cardio

How to:

1. Stand with feet together, arms by sides. Take a wide step out to the right as arms swing overhead (similar to a traditional jumping jack).

no jump jack A

2. Step left foot in to right as arms lower by sides.

no jump jack B

3. Repeat quickly for one minute, alternating sides each time.

Low Impact HIIT Move #3: Jump-Free Squat

Reps: AMRAP for one minute

Benefits: Sculpts thighs, glutes, calves and core while building balance and blasting calories

How to:

1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides. Bend knees and sit back into hips (as if sitting down on a chair), bringing hands to tops of thighs.

jump free squat A

2. Quickly stand up, rising up on to balls of the feet as arms reach overhead with explosive energy, as if you’re about to jump off the ground.

jump free squat B

3. Repeat as quickly as possible for one minute.

Low Impact HIIT Move #4: Fast Feet

Reps: AMRAP for one minute

Benefits: Builds agility and coordination while firing up the muscles in the thighs and glutes

How to:

1. Stand with feet together, arms by sides. Bend knees and sit back into hips, lowering into a semi-squat position. Quickly step right foot out wider than hip, and then immediately repeat with left foot, swinging arms naturally as feet move.

fast feet A

2. Quickly step right foot back in and then left, continuing to swing arms, staying in semi-squat position.

fast feet B

3. Repeat as quickly as possible (think, “out, out, in, in” to help find a quick rhythm for the movement of the feet) for one minute.

Low Impact HIIT Move #5: Figure 8 Flying Lunge

Reps: AMRAP for one minute

Benefits: This move coordinates upper and lower body movement to target the core muscles while raising your heart rate quickly

How to:

1. Stand with feet wider than hips (about 3 feet apart), with hands clasped and abs drawn in tight. Shift weight into right leg, bending knee and sitting back into hips as arms swing down and across right hip, tracing a circle from back to front.

figure 8 flying lunge A

2. As arms swing up to complete the circle, extend both legs, and bring arms in front of body in preparation to switch sides.

figure 8 flying lunge B

3. Repeat to opposite side, continuing figure-8 pattern of tracing two circles on either side of hips, connecting them in the center.

figure 8 flying lunge C

Repeat as quickly as possible for one minute. The lower you lunge and larger you make the figure-8 pattern while maintaining speed, the more intensive the move becomes.

If you like this workout, or are looking for additional options for low impact HIIT, don’t miss our “30-Minute Low Impact HIIT” session included in our “Walk On: 21 Day Weight Loss Plan” program! It’s the perfect place to get started with HIIT, and the workout includes options to help you advance your intensity level once you get more fit.

Photos by Vanessa Rogers Photography


  • Tanya

    Love her workouts.

  • GGG

    Jessica Smith has fabulous free workouts on youtube. All kinds, for everybody, at all levels.

  • Sherry L. Kirton

    I love these low impact moves. These I can do. Thank you!

    • jessicasmithtv

      Thanks Sherry! So glad they worked for you 🙂

  • Denise

    Jessica, Are all of these exercises safe for a person who herniated L5/S1 and has had two back surgeries?

    • jessicasmithtv

      Hi Denise, please consult with your doctor or physical therapist before trying this or any other workout.

  • Sum Guy

    The pictures and descriptions are nice, but a short video would be better. Especially because like in the first one, single leg running. You start out saying left foot forward and right arm forward, yet your is the opposite. Same for the next part of the exercise.

  • Kara Gray

    Are there videos somewhere for any of these? I have terrible shin splints from running, but I could totally do these while I recover! However, that last one has me a bit confused. Thanks!

  • Darrin Howse

    This my first time trying this one, I need more cardio on losing weight, I’m trying to reach my goal..

  • Abby Torres-Soto

    Thanks for this Jessica; with my knee and leg problems I was afraid there were no alternatives for me as far as cardio without machines.

  • Yvonne Lembo

    Loved this workout Jessica! Worked up a sweat without killing my joints! Thanks!

  • Wendy Tavares

    How do I enter this workout in MyFitnessPal ?

  • Helena

    Looking forward to doing this one!

  • Clarice

    what is AMRAP?

    • Mary

      As Many Reps As Possible

  • Dani

    Just wanted to add–a big part of HIIT, which Ive sworn by for years (it REALLY WORKS!), is pushing yourself during your high intensity intervals, obviously not to the point of injury, but possibly to the point of discomfort, as far as cardio is concerned. In other words, after your rest period, make sure you really get your heart rate up during your “go hard” period, to the point of knowing you only have 30, 40, etc. seconds left before you can ease up. These exercises are great because they engage your largest muscle group, which really gets the heart rate up. For those with gym access, I’ve found that a spin bike is great for less jarring yet still effective HIIT workouts. The greatest part is that you only need 20 minutes to get results, which is also why going hard during appropriate intervals is necessary. 🙂

  • Cheryl L Walden-Ward

    Can’t wait to try this. Can you give me an idea of the number of calories that are being burned, so I can enter it into my fitness pal,,