Looking to torch a ton of calories but don’t want to get injured? Low-impact workouts might just be exactly what you need.
“Low-impact training is a training or exercise method that minimizes risk for external pounding, shearing, or jarring forces upon the body’s joints,” Taylor Hynes, a certified strength and conditioning coach and director of Player Performance and Wellness for the FC UNITED and Team ONE lacrosse clubs, told INSIDER. The good news? Hynes said low-impact does not mean low-intensity.
Hynes added that everyone can benefit from low-impact exercise, but that it’s also important for people to incorporate high-impact workouts into their routine in order to maintain overall fitness.
“The primary drawback to low-impact training is that it is incomplete in the whole human athletic range of abilities,” she said. “Only training one way reduces the body’s intelligence in other areas. Your healthiest body can respond to all demands and recover to 100% without issue.”
But Hynes said that it’s a myth that high-impact workouts burn more calories than low-impact ones. “As long as the intensity of your work to rest ratio is appropriate, and the intensity of your session is high enough, then you can burn an equal amount of calories,” she said. “Calories burn when your body’s internal temperature reaches a certain temperature through muscular stress. Heat is not a byproduct of impact.”
So what are the best low-impact exercises to burn through calories? Hynes took us through six effective workouts that won’t put sudden force on your body but will still improve your fitness.
Swimming, if done right, can burn a lot of calories.
“Water is eight times denser than air, but it also possesses less gravitational pull, so the bodies are far less subject to shearing forces,” Hynes said. “In fact, when strokes are technically proficient, swimming is a smart resistance training tool for muscles in addition to it serving as a low-impact, high-intensity training tool.”
The only catch is that you have to get your heart rate up for it to be a high calories burner, Hynes said. Hynes suggested using a kickboard or trying water jogging. “Try this: two sets of 10 laps at 30 to 45 seconds each,” Hynes said. “Get to the other side as quickly as technique allows. The remainder of the interval is your rest time.”
Kettlebell routines will work your entire body.
Hynes told INSIDER that the kettlebell can accompany almost any bodyweight exercise since it’s a simple, handheld, and versatile weighted tool.
“Fuse four to six different exercise together at 30 seconds each,” she said. “Rest 30 seconds at the end of the round, and then repeat four to six times to total 20 to 30 minutes worth of work.”
If you’re looking for some suggestions, Hynes recommended swings, goblet squats, push presses, reverse lunges, and pullovers. “That routine gets lower, upper, core, and taxes all systems of the body just enough to stress without deteriorating any structures,” Hynes said.
Cycling is a powerful non-impact exercise.
Whether you’re a fan of spin classes or prefer to take your bike outside, cycling can be a great form of exercise with little risk of injury.
“Whatever your method, cycling is a great option for non-impact training,” Hynes said. “The terrain of your ride will determine the intensity of your session.
“Typically, since cycling requires one main, bipedal movement, these sessions need to be 45 to 90 minutes for a massive calorie burn.”
Yoga can be a major calorie burner.
You may initially think of yoga as a chill exercise, but Hynes said that it can also be a major calorie burner if done correctly. Yoga sculpt classes train flexibility, mobility, and strength through multiple ranges of motion, Hynes explained.
“Expect to hit high repetition ranges at little to no weight,” she said. “The high repetition and variety of movements will make this session intense and give you the full-body results you are looking for.”
Metabolic strength circuits will get your heart racing.
Hynes said that metabolic strength circuit workouts are similar to kettlebell routines in terms of the exercise selection and the short rest windows.
“The key to a successful strength circuit is smart exercise pairing,” Hynes said. “Concentrate on technical, multiple joint exercises like a squat, hinge, dead-lift, pull, or push that requires your body to work hard for a set amount of reps. Then pair that exercise with accessories that allow you to go right into the next exercise.”
Need some help building a routine? Hynes suggested trying this:
Lower body and abs:
15 goblet squats
15 dumbbell step-ups on each leg
15 squat jumps
30 seconds plank on each side with top leg up.
Three rounds, no rest.
5 pull-ups + 5 push-ups
4 pull-ups + 4 push-ups
3 pull-ups + 3 push-ups
2 pull-ups + 2 push-ups
1 pull-up + 1 push-up.
Rest 3 minutes, then repeat.
When it comes to rowing, technique is everything.
“Rowing is an excellent exercise choice, similar to cycling, as it keeps the body in a very fixed, repetitive range of motion,” Hynes said. “Because of this, make sure your technique is spot-on to prevent overuse or imbalance injuries.”
Since rowing uses leg and back muscles, those muscles require the most energy output, which means maximum caloric output in those muscle groups, Hynes said. “Warm up with a two-kilometer row at a steady pace (60% of your perceived maximum effort). After, do three sets of six two-minute bursts at maximum effort with two minutes of easy rowing in between each repetition. Take three minutes complete rest between the three sets, and try to make each set faster than the previous set.”
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