Low Impact Strength Training: 15 Exercises For Beginners


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If you’re looking to get great strength results without putting so much pressure on your joints or tendons, then low-impact strength training is the ideal choice.

Low-impact strength training is an effective way to work on your strength without adding extra stress on our joints and tendons. They include exercises that keep at least one foot on the ground and are easier on the body. But don’t be mistaken—they can be just as challenging as their high-impact counterparts.

In this article, I’ll discuss who can benefit from low impact strength training, the benefits of training in this way, and a list of exercises that beginners can try.  Let’s get started!


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What is Low-Impact Strength Training?


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Low-impact strength training refers to exercise that is easy and gentle on your joints and tendons.

Any exercise in which at least one foot remains in contact with the ground is regarded as low impact, so this means no jumping or hopping exercises (which is classified as high-impact training).

Related Article: Can You Lose Weight Without Sweating? (Yes, Here’s How)

Who Needs Low-Impact Exercises?

If you are somebody with joint or tendon issues, then it’s best to train only using low-impact exercises.

Also, those who are recovering from injuries may choose to follow a low-impact training program instead.

Benefits of Low-Impact Strength Training

Don’t be fooled by the name “low-impact”.

This type of training will give you some high-impact benefits that you’ll be reaping both in and out of the gym.

The benefits of low impact strength training are:

  • It’s easy on the joints

  • It builds consistency with training 

  • It improves cardiovascular endurance

  • It develops kinesthetic awareness

  • It reduces the risk of disease and other conditions

  • It improves bone density

  • It improves cognition

  • It relieves stress 

  • It boost well-being

Related Article: 6 Best Cardio Machines To Tone Legs (Plus, Sample Workout)

1. EASY ON THE JOINTS


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One of the main reasons why people love low-impact strength training is because it’s easy on the joints. Exercises that involve running, sprinting and jumping are great but can also cause many joint and tendons problems, particularly in the knees, shins and hips. Low-impact strength training places much less stress on the body, meaning that you’ll be able to train safely and effectively.

2. BUILDS CONSISTENCY WITH TRAINING

As the risk of injury decreases with low-impact workouts, you’re more likely to be able to build a regular training routine that’ll be consistent. You won’t have to stop as often due to injuries or a bad knee and can keep up the consistency in your workouts.

3. IMPROVES CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE

Yep, you read that right, low-impact strength training can help build your cardiovascular fitness. Just because  there is much less impact on your joints, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard or challenging. You can definitely get a challenging workout that still is easier on the joints while building your stamina at the same time.

4. DEVELOPS KINESTHETIC AWARENESS

By consistently doing your exercises, you’ll develop better kinesthetic awareness, that is, being aware of your body positions and movements both in relation to yourself and the space and objects around you. Being more attuned with your body is a functional skill that’ll help you in everyday life.

5. REDUCES THE RISK OF DISEASE AND OTHER CONDITIONS

There are many health benefits that come from low-impact strength training. One of them is that it reduces the risk of disease such as heart disease. It also decreases the chances of Type 2 diabetes from developing and some cancers, obesity, back pain and arthritis. It really can send you on the path to better health.

6. IMPROVES BONE DENSITY

You’ll build your bone density and strengthen your bones with strength training. With this comes the decreased risk of osteoporosis, which is a condition that weakens the bones, meaning that they’re more susceptible to breaking. Increasing bone density is a great way to prevent this.

7. IMPROVES BRAIN FUNCTION

Your brain will get a great workout as well as your body. Exercise promotes better memory and brain plasticity so that you can adjust or rewire connections easily, while also creating new ones. It’ll come in handy when you want to learn something new like picking up a musical instrument or even challenging yourself to a different fitness skill you haven’t tried before.

8. RELIEVES STRESS

It comes to no surprise that exercise makes you feel good. You might be wishing it were over halfway through your workout but once it’s done, you’ll feel that post-exercise high that makes you realize just how worth it, it is. Exercise, including low-impact strength training, can boost your mood, relieve your stress as well as anxiety and depression.

9. BOOSTS WELLBEING

By consistently working on your fitness, you’ll begin to see the impact that it has not only on your physical health but on your wellbeing as well. As you become stronger and fitter, your confidence will improve that you can carry out both in and out of the gym.


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15 Beginner-Friendly Exercises For Low-Impact Strength Training


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Here are 15 beginner-friendly exercises that you can do for low-impact strength training. Be warned, these will still challenge you but will do so without placing too much stress on your joints and tendons. We’ve included movements that hit every part of the body so that you can be sure to get a full-body workout.

DUMBBELL CHEST PRESS

Muscles worked: chest, triceps

  1. Lie on a flat bench. Your feet should be flat on the ground. Hold one dumbbell in each hand at your chest, your wrists above your elbows and close to your body.

  2. Take a breath in, sucking into your belly. Then, push the dumbbells up until your arms are extended.

  3. Lower the dumbbells in a controlled movement, back to your starting position.

DUMBBELL FRONTAL RAISE

Muscles worked: shoulders

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. You can also choose to use weight plates for this. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, feet firmly planted on the ground.

  2. Engage your core and raise the dumbbells or plates in front of you until they are at shoulder height. Your arms should be straight and your hips tucked in. Make sure you don’t arch your back.

  3. Lower the weight back beside you, still maintaining straight arms.

Related Article: The 9 Best Side Delt Exercises To Grow Your Shoulders

SUMO SQUAT

Muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings

  1. Widen your stance until they are a bit wider than shoulder-width.

  2. Take a deep breath in and slowly bend at the knees into a squat. Try to squat until you are at least parallel to the ground. If not, then, just squat as low as you can and you can work on getting lower over time.

  3. In a fast movement, stand back to the starting position. Bring some power into it and make it as explosive as possible.

Notes: If you want to make the sumo squat harder, then hold a weight to your chest while performing it.

REVERSE LUNGE TO BALANCE

Muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings, core

  1. In a standing position, engage your abdominal muscles. Then, bring your right leg behind you and lower yourself into a reverse lunge. Try to go as low as you can without hitting your knee to the ground.

  2. Making sure you’re still contracting your core to help keep balanced and bring your right leg forward until it is in front of you with your knee raised. The higher it is, the more challenging it will be. Hold it for 2 seconds.

  3. In a controlled movement, lower your right knee back to the ground, to meet your left leg. Then, repeat on the other side.

STEP UP

Muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings, core

  1. Find a chair that is at a height you’re comfortable stepping up on. You can also use a bench or box or stairs if you have access to any.

  2. Stand on the ground, facing the chair. Bring your left leg on the chair and step up, meeting your right foot with your left. Ensure that you’re using only the leg that is on the chair to bring yourself up. Lean your torso forward slightly to give more emphasis to the glutes.

  3. Then, bring your right leg back down to the ground carefully before your left. Repeat on the other side.

Notes: If you find that you’re having trouble balancing and stepping up, use a chair with a back support so that you can lean on it if needed. Then, work your way to being able to execute this movement without the added support.

GLUTE BRIDGE

Muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings, core

  1. Lie on the floor on your back. Your knees should be bent and your feet flat on the ground.

  2. Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line. Squeeze your glutes together at the top. Make sure you don’t skip the squeeze, this is where the magic happens!

  3. Lower your hips back to the ground. Then repeat.

Notes: You might have to adjust your foot placement to feel this exercise in your glutes. For some, moving their feet further away from their body helps while others prefer it closer. Change your own placement depending on how it feels for you.

Related Article: 9 Banded Kickback Variations To Target Your Glutes

HAMMER CURL

Muscles worked: biceps

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Your hands should be by your side and your palms are each facing your body.

  2. Using only your biceps, bend your arm at the elbow to bring your dumbbells to your chest. The end of the dumbbell should be pointed in the direction it’s travelling. This is what differentiates the hammer curl movement to the bicep curl (which we will talk about next).

  3. Lower the weight back to starting position.

Notes: Try not to move your body to gain momentum to move the weight. If you can’t lift your dumbbells without doing so, then you need to lower the weight.

BICEP CURL

Muscles worked: biceps

  1. This movement is similar to the hammer curl, except the way the dumbbells are positioned. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing upwards. Your hands should be by your side.

  2. Using only your biceps, bend your arm at the elbow to bring your dumbbells to your chest.

  3. Lower the weight back to starting position.

BENT OVER TRICEP KICKBACK

Muscles worked: triceps

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your torso should be leaning forward with your back straight and knees bent. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Your elbows are bent straight back behind you and the weights are close to your chest, on either side.

  2. Extend your arms so that you’re moving the dumbbells down and back. At the top of the position, your arms should be straight and behind you. Make sure your arms are still close to your body, so there shouldn’t be a gap between them.

  3. Return to starting position in a controlled motion.

OVERHEAD TRICEP EXTENSION

Muscles worked: triceps

  1. Stand up straight and tall with your arms overhead, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your palms are facing each other. Make sure that you’re not overarching your back and that your core is engaged.

  2. Bend at the elbows, bringing the weight behind you and down. Make sure the rest of your body remains still.

  3. Once you’ve hit your full range of motion, return to the starting position.

Notes: You can also use just one dumbbell, holding it with both hands instead.

LYING STRAIGHT LEG RAISES

Muscles worked: core

  1. Lie on the floor, facing up. Your legs are straight. Place your hands underneath your lower back to support your pelvis, if necessary.

  2. Contract your abdominal muscles and lift your legs off the ground keeping them as straight as possible. Bring them up until your body forms a 90-degree angle.

  3. Slowly lower your legs back down. Try not to touch the ground but instead stop when you’re approximately 2 inches from the ground. Then repeat.

Notes: If you need to place your hands beneath your lower back to support your pelvis, touch each index finger to each other and do the same for your thumbs so that the gap forms a triangle.

RUSSIAN TWIST

Muscles worked: core

  1. Sit on the ground with your legs in the air, knees bent, and your torso leaning back. Your body should form a V-position.

  2. Twist to one side, bringing both your hands to the side with you.

  3. Twist to the other side and repeat.

Notes: To make this exercise harder, hold a weight in your hands such as a dumbbell or plate.

PLANK

Muscles worked: core

  1. Get into a plank position. This means supporting yourself on your elbows and toes. Your body is in one straight line.

  2. Tuck your pelvic in, engage your core, and hold the position for 30 seconds to 1-minute

Notes: Don’t let your back overarch or your hips sink into the ground. Also, make sure you’re not sticking your bum in the air. Ensuring that you tuck your pelvis in is key to forming a straight line with your body.

RENEGADE ROW

Muscles worked: back, biceps, core

  1. The renegade row starts in a high plank position. This is your plank position but on your hands with your arms extended straight, instead of on your elbows. Your shoulders should be directly above your hands. In each hand, you’ll be holding one dumbbell.

  2. Do a form check—make sure that your back is straight, your abdominal muscles are engaged and your feet are shoulder-width apart.

  3. Still in your high plank position, bring one hand up into a row. Keep the dumbbell close to your body, reaching your ribcage, your elbows tucked back. Make sure that you don’t twist your body; keep your body as straight as possible.

  4. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

DUMBBELL ROMANIAN DEADLIFT

Muscles worked: glutes, hamstrings, lower back

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your knees are slightly bent.

  2. Hinge at the hips, lowering the dumbbells to the ground, holding them horizontally (palms facing your thighs). Keep them as close to your legs as possible as you bring them down.

  3. Stop at the shins. Drive your heels into the ground, push your hips forward (careful not to overextend) and squeeze your glutes as you return to the starting position.

Final Notes

Unfortunately, the saying ‘no pain, no gain’ doesn’t apply to your joints. If they are hurting because of high-impact exercises, then switch over to low-impact strength training. They are still effective workouts that generate great gains and all without the pain. Try these 15 beginner-friendly low-impact strength exercises to see what we’re talking about or check out the FitBod app for some more great ideas.


About The Author


Emily Trinh

Emily Trinh

As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.