When most people think of an intensely sweaty workout that delivers real results, they usually picture the kind of cardio that’s heavy on the high-impact moves, says NASM-certified personal trainer and barre instructor Michelle Houston.
While those styles definitely have their place, plenty of low-impact exercises can get you those same benefits — and more.
You need only look to Beachbody’s Barre Blend program, a fusion of barre, Pilates, and cardio interval training, to see that!
Low-impact workouts increase strength and endurance, and boost metabolism, “without having to suffer any pain, jolting, or discomfort from impact,” Houston says.
Because low-impact exercises are easier on your joints, you can do these workouts more often during the week, she adds, which can keep the results stacking up quickly.
Ready to sweat it out with our favorite low-impact leg exercises?
First, check out the Barre Blend glossary, and then try these moves from Super Trainer Elise Joan as a circuit, doing two to three rounds of 20 reps per movement per set:
1. Calf Raises
This move can be part of a warm-up for the legs.
- Stand with feet parallel, hip-distance apart. You can have a sturdy chair to one side, with a hand resting lightly on it for stability.
- Lift your heels up, engaging your calves. Keep your tailbone tucked under your hips and spine neutral.
- Lower your heels back down while keeping your form. That’s one rep.
- For extra work, you can put a Pilates ball or foam block between the thighs.
2. Relevé Plié
- Stand with feet in first position — heels together, toes turned out about 45 degrees, and legs straight — with your hands resting lightly on the back of the chair.
- With your spine tall and tailbone tucked in under your hips, rise up onto the balls of your feet. Plié by bending your knees out over your toes, lowering about halfway down.
- Squeeze your inner thighs as you rise back up, then lower your heels. That’s one rep.
3. Plié Pulse
- Stand with feet hip-distance apart, heels in and toes out, hands resting lightly on the back of the chair.
- Press up onto the balls of the feet and bend your knees into a deep plié. Squeeze your inner thighs together with your heels up.
- Lift up halfway, your knees still bent, then return back down to a deep plié position. That’s one rep.
4. Leg Lift and Pulse
- Start facing a sturdy chair or barre, far enough away that when you lean forward, you could touch your forehead to it. Place your hands lightly on the chair or barre for support.
- Lift one leg back, squeezing your glutes, keeping your spine neutral, and bending toward the chair to form a “T” shape.
- Lower your extended leg down by a few inches and back up, in small, controlled movements. Complete all reps in a set on one side, then switch legs.
- For more challenge, release your hands and tighten your abs for balance.
5. Toe Taps
- Stand with your feet wide, toes pointing out 45 degrees, in a sumo squat position.
- Bend your knees and hold in a squat, making sure your spine is long, with your hands on your hips.
- Straighten your legs, lean to the right, and tap your left toe on the floor.
- Bend your knees through center, then lean to the left, and tap your right toe on the floor.
- As you progress, try adding your arms into the sequence by lifting them as you straighten your legs. Do 20 on each side.
More Options for Low-Impact Cardio Exercises
Another perk of Barre Blend is that you can mix up your workouts to do barre three or four times a week and still go low-impact on other days.
Try options like swimming, walking, low-impact HIIT, elliptical, boxing, biking, battle ropes, or rowing.
In addition to getting a killer workout, options like these and barre also come with the added advantage of more body awareness, according to ACE-certified personal trainer and mindful movement specialist Ellen Barrett.
“Low-impact workouts have it all,” she says. “You can establish a perfect cardio zone, preventing injury and protecting your joints, and get a greater sense of stability and mindfulness, even with complicated movements.”