Total-Body Workouts for Women

3 High-Intensity Low-Impact Workouts

Get high-impact results with these low-impact workouts using a barbell, your bodyweight or both.

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The world is enamored with HIIT — high-intensity interval training — and while research shows that HIIT is super effective for fat burning and performance training, it also can be super high-impact. Explosive moves such as burpees and squat jumps are standard fare in a HIIT workout, but your body can only suffer through so much pounding before your joints and connective tissues give in and break down. Fortunately, a workout does not have to be high-impact to be effective.

Enter HILIT — high-intensity low-impact training. This specific approach to HIIT uses total-body movements to elevate your heart rate and bring you close to muscle failure, but because you always have one foot and/or hand on the ground, you minimize the amount of load and force of an exercise and will greatly reduce your risk of injury. Like HIIT, HILIT focuses on short bursts of all-out activity followed by short recovery periods, making it a fast and efficient way to train, and because the workouts are joint-friendly, you’ll need less downtime to recover, meaning you can get back to the gym faster and more frequently.

Woman in athletic clothes posing

These 10 exercises deliver high-impact results at a low-impact price using either your bodyweight or a barbell and are arranged in pairs that engage the same general muscle groups. Plug them into your current routine, or trade your regular HIIT workouts for one of the sample plans for a body-friendly change of pace.

The Moves

Squat-Press Barbell Complex

Squat-Press Barbell Complex

Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your legs turned out slightly. Hold a barbell across your clavicle and front delts in the front rack position with your hands outside your shoulders and your elbows flipped underneath the bar and raised to shoulder height. Kick your hips back, bend your knees and drop your glutes to squat down as low as you comfortably can. Drive through your heels, quickly extending your legs and hips, and use that momentum to drive the bar straight up overhead. Carefully lower the bar behind your head across your upper back, then descend into another deep squat. Explode back to standing, push the bar overhead, then return it to the front rack position to complete one rep.

Tip: Remember to breathe, inhaling as you squat down and exhaling as you drive up.

Touchdown/Reach-Back Squat

Touchdown/Reach-Back Squat

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, legs turned out slightly from your hips. Push your glutes back and bend your knees to squat as low as you can while keeping your spine straight. Touch the floor between your feet, then quickly stand up, extending your knees, hips and ankles and rising up onto your toes as you reach your arms overhead. Lower right into another squat, and at the bottom, reach your arms behind your lower back and try to touch your fingertips together. Stand up onto your toes and reach your arms overhead to complete one rep.

Tip: When reaching behind you, keep your chest lifted and your head in line with your spine to maintain balance and prevent back strain.

Overhead Barbell Curtsy Squat

Overhead Barbell Curtsy Squat

Take a wide, overhand grip on a barbell and lift it straight up over your head. Keeping your hips square, step your right foot behind and across your body to the left on the diagonal. Bend both knees and lower into a curtsy, then push off your right foot as you extend your left leg to return to the start.

Tip: Think about turning your armpits to the front as you actively press up against the bar for optimal shoulder stabilization.

Holding a barbell overhead engages tons of additional core and upper-body muscles to help stabilize the load. But if you have an injury or are simply not comfortable with an overhead position, you can perform this move with the bar in the front rack or back rack position instead.

Prisoner Curtsy Squat

Prisoner Curtsy Squat

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands lightly behind your head with your elbows flared and your chest lifted. Keeping your hips square, step your right foot behind and across your left on the diagonal. Bend both knees and lower into a curtsy, then push off your right foot as you extend your left leg to return to the start.

Tip: Overstepping to the side causes your hips to turn, so keep your curtsys smaller to properly target the glutes and outer thigh.

Barbell Push-Up to Pendlay
Barbell Push-Up to Pendlay

Barbell Push-Up to Pendlay Row

Kneel on the floor and place your hands shoulder-width apart on a barbell. Walk your feet back into a plank so your head, hips and heels align and your arms are perpendicular to the floor. Bend your elbows and lower your body until your chest almost touches the barbell, then extend your arms to return to plank. Walk your feet underneath you, bend your knees and drop your hips slightly until your back is parallel with the ground. Hold here as you drive your elbows up and back to pull the bar off the floor and into your abdomen. Return it to the floor, step your feet back into plank and repeat.

Tip: Unlike a typical row, your back should stay parallel to the ground throughout the move and the barbell should begin and end on the floor with each rep.

Push-Up to Chair Squat
Push-Up to Chair Squat

Push-Up to Chair Squat

Place your hands on the floor just outside your shoulders and step your feet back into plank so your head, hips and heels align. Do a push-up, then walk your feet underneath you about hip-width apart. Keep your back straight as you bend your knees, drop your hips and reach your arms overhead in a smooth arc. Hold briefly, then reverse the steps to return to the start.

Tip: Actively draw your shoulder blades together and pull your raised arms behind you to align with your ears to engage your entire back.

Renegade Barbell Row to Side-Plank Reach to Walkover

Renegade Barbell Row to Side-Plank Reach to Walkover

Get into plank with a barbell positioned on your left, making sure your head, hips and heels are aligned. Grasp the bar with your left hand and drive your elbow up and back to row it toward your flank. Return the bar to the floor, pivot on your feet and open your body to the left, reaching your arm toward the sky. Return to plank, then walk laterally on your hands and toes to over the barbell and repeat on the other side.

Tip: For better stability, spread your feet a little wider apart.

Plank Thigh Tap
Plank Thigh Tap

Plank Thigh Tap to Side-Plank Reach to Lateral Walk

Get into plank with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Hold plank as you reach one hand at a time underneath you to tap your thighs. Then pivot on your feet and open your body to the right, reaching your right arm up toward the sky. Return to plank, then take two lateral “steps” to the right with your hands and feet and then repeat on the other side.

Tip: If your form begins to fail and/or your back begins to sway, take a break and regroup to prevent a lumbar issue.

Barbell Landmine Row

Barbell Landmine Rainbow

Position one end of a barbell in the center of a plate or in the corner of a room. Hold the opposite end with both hands at your right hip and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent slightly. Keep your hips and shoulders as square as possible
as you raise the bar up and over to the left in a big arc. Continue, alternating sides.

Tip: This movement trains your core in anti-rotation, meaning you’re going to want to resist movement as you move the bar side to side. It’s harder than it looks!

Russian Twist

Russian Twist

Sit with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Clasp your hands together and lean away from your legs with your back straight. Twist your entire upper body and shoulders side to side, tapping your knuckles to the floor outside your hips.

Tip: To make this more challenging, lift your feet off the floor and balance on your tailbone (as shown).

Sample Workout 1

Total-Body Bodyweight Workout

Complete three rounds of the following workout. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.

Exercise Seconds
Touchdown/Reach-Back Squat 30
Rest 15
Alternating Prisoner Curtsy Squat 30
Rest 15
Push-Up to Chair Squat 30
Rest 15
Plank Thigh Tap to Side-Plank Reach to Lateral Walk 30
Rest 15
Russian Twist 30
Rest 60

Sample Workout 2

Lower-Body Barbell Blast

Complete four rounds of the following workout, resting 60 seconds between rounds, then rest two minutes before completing the finisher.

Exercise Seconds
Squat-Press Barbell Complex 30
Rest 15
Walking Lunge 30
Rest 15
Overhead Barbell Curtsy Squat (left) 30
Rest 15
Overhead Barbell Curtsy Squat (right) 30
Rest 15
Air Squat 30
Rest 60

Finisher: 100’s

Start a timer, then complete 100 reps of the following exercise, resting only as needed.

  • Barbell Landmine Rainbow

Sample Workout 3

Bar/Body HILIT Burnout

Complete two to three rounds of each circuit. Rest 30 seconds between rounds.

Circuit 1

Exercise Seconds
Squat-Press Barbell Complex 20
Rest 10
Touchdown/Reach-Back Squat 20
Rest 10
Alternating Overhead Barbell Curtsy Squat 20
Rest 10
Alternating Prisoner Curtsy Squat 20
Rest 30

Circuit 2

Exercise Seconds
Barbell Push-Up to Pendlay Row 20
Rest 10
Push-Up to Chair Squat 20
Rest 10
Barbell Landmine Rainbow 20
Rest 30

Circuit 3

Exercise Seconds
Renegade Barbell Row to Side-Plank Reach to Walkover 20
Rest 10
Russian Twist 20
Rest 10
Plank Thigh Tap to Side-Plank Reach to Lateral Walk 20
Rest 30

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