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Painless HIIT circuits that burn fat, build muscle and save your joints

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We have received the message. Training at high intensity intervals is efficient: workouts last less than half an hour and often only a few minutes. And they are effective. Research finds that HIIT improves athletic endurance, strengthens the heart, reduces body fat and makes you a happier person. But not everyone is a fan.

For some, all those jumps, burpees, box jumps and rounds of fast rope leave them limping the next day. Strong movements can cause tenderness in the joints or exacerbate existing muscle or joint problems. And the avid runners that hit the pavement may want to avoid the impact of cross-training.

Fortunately, high intensity doesn’t have to mean high impact. “Lower-impact exercises are great for people with knee or ankle injuries, or anyone heading back into the gym after a hiatus,” says Josh Woodall, a strength and conditioning coach in Temple, Texas. He put together the 12-exercise routine on the following pages, which cuts out moves with air time, and adds in a squishy BOSU ball (the kind you use for balance drills) to soften the blow to joints. To keep up the intensity, we peppered in weights. If you’re using a heart-rate monitor, aim to hit 80 percent of max capacity to get the biggest metabolic bump.

No monitor? Try to go from zero to breathless as quickly as possible in each set, maintain it, and work a little harder each round. Forget the low-impact part — we got that covered. You focus on bringing the high intensity.


Choose four of the six groups on the following slides. Make the first movement of the pair for 40 seconds and the second for 20 seconds. Complete four consecutive series, without rest, totaling four minutes. Exercises that isolate one side of the body should alternate in each series. Rest one or two minutes, then move on to the next group. Including rest periods, everything will take less than 30 minutes. Do this exercise once or twice a week and vary the groups each time.