High intensity doesn’t have to mean high impact 

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is all the rage. But is it suitable for everyone?

The answer is yes, but only when exercises suited to their level of fitness are used, and any health conditions and injuries are taken into account. It’s definitely not a case of one size fits all.


What exactly is HIIT?

HIIT workout training Shutterstock Strong Fit Well

The aim of HIIT training is to get the heart rate up for short bursts. Participants give their all for an intense but brief period of exercise which is then followed up by a short recovery period.

This type of training gets your heart rate up, keeping it up and has been shown to burn more fat in less time and enhance aerobic capacity. In fact, the body keeps burning after the session has finished, enhancing its effect on the body.


What does it usually involve?

Box jumps group men women Shutterstock Strong Fit Well

Walk into a HIIT class, and it wouldn’t be unusual to witness box jumps, burpees and sprints.

But while these types of high-impact jumps and leaps will certainly do the trick, they can bring on injury when not performed correctly. They can also be a red light for people with existing injuries or certain conditions.

Fortunately, the HIIT effect can also be achieved by implementing exercises that don’t put excessive pressure on joints or muscles.


Check out these five exercises that offer the intensity without the impact


Medicine ball slams

Suzanne ball slam Strong Fit Well

The med ball slam is a full body exercise which uses the lats, abs and quads. As a result, it’s great for overall conditioning and definitely gets the heart pounding.

That makes it an excellent choice for torching a ton of calories in a HIIT-style workout.

It will also help build strength and explosive power, without placing too much stress on your body. A surprising amount of core strength is also required.

Raise the ball overhead as high as possible with extended arms before slamming the ball to the ground, using your arms as well as your torso.

Make sure you maintain good form – keep your core on and don’t let the back round as you scoop the ball back up.


Sled pushes

Maddie Sled Push Strong Fit Well

It may look like an instrument of torture, but the sled is actually surprisingly easy on the joints. Nonetheless, it still delivers the same or even higher level of intensity of other high impact exercises.

You won’t get the same degree of muscle damage and soreness that you get with standard strength training because it lacks eccentric loading.

Check out this post for more information about sled training.

It’s perfect for short bursts of effort thanks to its heavy nature.

If you perform these workouts regularly you will also build power and strength in your legs too. Great news for people who struggle with squats.

Simply get behind the sled and push. Arms should be nice and long, shoulders drawn away from ears. Strides should be big with legs fully extended at the end of each movement.


Battle ropes

Battle Ropes Suzanne Strong Fit Well

These thick black cables help build strength, muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness.

By repeatedly creating explosive forces, stopping them, then creating the force again in another direction, you’re working seriously hard in a number of ways.

If you perfect your form and technique when tackling the ropes, there is minimal risk of injury.

That makes them an ideal way to strengthen the shoulders – of course if proper form and technique is observed.

And as far as the lower body is concerned (knee issues anyone?!), little movement is required down there. That makes it a safe way for those with knee issues to work on their cardiovascular fitness. They can even be used sitting down.

Check out this post for more information about battle ropes.

Set yourself up properly – you should be grounded and aware of your feet, core and shoulders with no tension in your neck and traps. Waves should be small to mid-sized – just be sure to keep those ropes moving!



Kettlebell swing



For a powerful metabolic punch, get swinging those kettlebells. This exercise, a starting point in kettlebell training, ramps up your heart rate enough to burn 12.5 calories per minute. That’s the equivalent of what you’d burn on a jog.

Not only that, but the KB swing also targets the glutes and hamstrings, building power and strength without putting the joints under stress.

However, it is critical this exercise is performed correctly to avoid lower back issues so make sure you master the correct technique before letting rip.

Using a two- handed, overhand grip, keep the arch in your lower back (engage that core!). Then bend your hips back until the KB is between and behind your legs; squeeze your glutes to extend your hips and swing the weight up (no higher than the shoulders).


Farmers carry


This incredibly simple exercise is a winner on a number of fronts. It’ll get the heart rate up, build muscle and strength in your back, shoulders and grip strength – all with very little risk of injury.

It’s also highly functional – think carrying shopping bags or anything heavy. That’s why mastering good form is critical – tall spine, engaged core and upper back.

Other than that, it’s simply a case of picking up some heavy weights (kettlebells are awesome here), walking as far as you can and then repeating.


Do you love HIIT training?


Posted by

Journo turned fitness professional, passionate about helping people to live a healthier and happier life! A long way from London, I now call Sydney home.

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