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Low-Impact Training For Weak Joints

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Low-Impact Training For Weak Joints

Low-impact training is the best way to gain strength and improve your cardio without putting a ton of stress on your body, as a typical HIIT session does.

Tone down the stress level if you feel the burn after weight lifting or too many long-distance runs. Switching to a low-impact workout can help your body recover while still creating gains!

Low-impact exercises aren’t necessarily low intensity, but they do offer your body the chance to work out without straining tendons or over-pressuring your joints.

Prop your feet up, and learn a few benefits of low-impact training. We’ve also added a few fantastic low-impact strength training exercises that you can try out at home!

What is low-impact training? 

Low-impact training is defined as a workout that avoids placing stress on joints and tendons for prolonged periods of time. A low-impact training schedule can consist of both cardio and strength training exercises but must avoid high-impact exercises that can cause injuries or stress.

To better understand what low-impact training is, it’s a good idea to look at what high-impact fitness is. High-impact exercises place a ton of stress and strain on your bones and joints, usually through heavy impact with the ground. 

The most common example is running, a high-impact exercise that can cause stress fractures in your feet, toes, ankles, and legs, as well as causing injuries to joints and tendons through prolonged shock. 

While high-impact exercises are commonly used to keep in shape, they put our bodies under huge amounts of stress - and this can easily lead to injury. Examples of high-impact training include the following:
  • Running/jogging
  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Plyometrics/jump training
  • Collision sports

On the other hand, low-impact exercises put your body through much less stress and shock than high-impact training. The most common example is cycling, a low-impact cardio workout that avoids placing any shock on your feet or ankles but still raises your heart rate and improves fitness (technically, cycling would be classified as no-impact.)

Low-impact exercises generally have at least one foot firmly planted on the ground throughout the exercise to avoid stress and strain on joints. 

Other common examples of low-impact training include the following:
  • Walking
  • Resistance band training
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Rowing

Are low-impact training exercises also low-intensity training exercises? 

Low-impact training exercises can be low-intensity training exercises. This is the case if you choose to walk instead of sprinting, for instance. However, just because an exercise is considered low-impact doesn’t mean it’s always considered low-intensity.

In fact, many low-impact cardio or strength training workouts are just as intense as high-impact workouts. Swimming, for example, is just as hard on your muscles and your cardio system as running. Swimming is a form of low-impact cardio and low-impact strength training but packs the punch of a full-body workout compared to jogging. 

You can easily turn high-impact strength training or bodyweight exercises into low-impact strength training without losing the intensity in many cases. This is the case if you start using pull up bands for strength training instead of heavy weights that cause your joints stress. You can still build muscle or tone muscle using resistance bands without damaging tendons or fracturing bones in the process!

The idea behind low-impact exercises, then, is simply to give your bones and joints a break. Low-impact HIIT, for example, will get your heart rate racing, and you can still perform a high-intensity cardio workout on a bike or rowing machine rather than on the treadmill. 

The benefits of low-impact training 

Low-impact, high-intensity workouts have many excellent benefits just waiting to be unleashed by both beginners and pros. Low-impact training isn’t just easy on the bones, but it can help you reach fitness goals while avoiding injuries. 

Here are the significant benefits associated with low-impact training: 
  • Improve your cardiovascular fitness and endurance
  • Build muscle and bone strength
  • Tone muscles (particularly through resistance band training)
  • Reduce the risk of injury (including fractures, torn ligaments, snapped tendons, etc.)
  • Reduce the risk of disease ( diabetes, heart disease, etc.)
  • Relieve stress and release endorphins (boost your body and your mind!)
  • Extend your training schedule without increasing the chance of injury (train for 6 days a week, instead of 4 days a week)
  • Improve overall fitness and strength 
  • Hit fitness goals or targets without damaging your body

Who can benefit from low-impact training? 

People with weak joints or bones, those who are injury prone, or those recovering from an existing injury typically get the most out of low-impact training (both low-impact cardio and low-impact strength training.)

If you’re susceptible to injuries, low-impact cardio or resistance band exercises provide you with the avenue to stay in shape, raise your heart rate, and keep fit without putting stress on your body. 

Low-impact training is really for everyone, though. Even if you’re a hardcore ultramarathon runner, your training will benefit from low-impact cardio days mixed in with low-impact training days that still raise your heart rate but give your worn muscles time to recover. 

If you’re a weightlifter looking to build body mass, your joints will thank you for a day on the hip circle band set after a day of bench presses. At the end of the day, there’s only so much that our bodies can take. By incorporating low-impact exercises into our workout regimes, we can still maintain and build fitness and stay healthy and strong without injuring ourselves. 

Beginner-friendly exercises for low-impact strength training 

Low-impact cardio exercises (including different types of cardio such as hiking and swimming) are incredibly popular, but low-impact strength training exercises aren’t as well known. 

We often consider weight training (with free weights, bodyweight exercises, or weight machines) to be the best (or only) way to build muscle, but this isn’t the case. Low-impact strength training exercises are any exercises that aim to tone or build muscle while not placing too much stress or strain on your body. 

The best low-impact strength training exercises make great use of resistance bands, which help to target and activate different muscles. You’ll build bigger muscles, tone existing muscles, and improve your fitness while avoiding injury. 

The following are all excellent examples of low-impact strength training exercises that you can try out for yourself with resistance bands:

#1 Resistance band rows

This exercise builds upper body strength while also working on your cardio. 
  • Sit down on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you.
  •  Keep your back straight and loop a long resistance band around the bottoms of both feet. 
  • Place the ends of the band in either hand.
  • Pull back towards your body as if you are rowing a boat. 

#2 Banded pull aparts

This exercise works your back, shoulder, and arm muscles.
  • Stand with your feet loosely apart
  • Hold a resistance band in both hands at shoulder height out in front of you. 
  • Pull the band apart using both hands. 

#3 Banded bicep curls

This exercise specifically targets the biceps. 

  • Stand with your feet loosely apart and place a long resistance band under both feet.
  • Hold the ends in either hand.
  • Lock your elbows, and curl your arms up towards your body. 

#4 Banded squats 

This exercise works your legs and back.

  • Place a hip circle band around both thighs, just above the knees.
  • Assume the squat position.
  • Push your knees outward against the band.
  • Raise up into a standing position
  • Lower yourself back into the squat position. 

Final takeaways for low-impact training

Low-impact training is a fantastic way to raise your heart rate, improve your cardio, or build strength without placing undue stress on your body. 

Avoid injuries, prevent your tendons, ligaments, and joints from being damaged or worn down over time, yet maintain and improve your fitness at the same time!

There are some great (and fun!) ways to stay fit through low-impact exercises, from hiking or swimming to resistance band workouts and low-impact aerobics. If you’re trying to give your body a break, then try low-impact training!

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Katherine is a CrossFit expert with humble origins. Starting out on a ranch, ever since she was nine, she spent most of her life roping and competing in team roping. After finding bodyweight exercises interesting she sought after a career in CrossFit and dedicated her life towards achieving the body of her dreams. Today Katherine is a personal trainer that loves to travel the world and change the lives of her clients.

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