12-Minute, Low-Impact HIIT Workout For Bad Knees

15 Minute Workouts, Fitness, HIIT Workouts, Workouts, Workouts by Length

By: // February 14, 2021


So you want to do some high intensity interval training (HIIT) but your knees are in rough shape? Many people wonder, can you do HIIT with bad knees? Don’t sweat, you can do low impact HIIT that won’t aggravate knee pain. High intensity does not have to mean jumping.  You can be high intensity but perform low impact exercises. 

HIIT workouts encourage you to work hard during the work segment and then take a break to quickly recover during the rest segment. So, even if you can’t jump or do deep squats and lunges, this low impact HIIT workout for bad knees (below) will still help you reap the benefits that high intensity interval training provides, such as:

    • A higher rate of fat burn both during and after the workout.
    • Building your cardiovascular endurance.
    • Raising your metabolic rate.
    • Working smarter not longer. 

What is Low Impact Exercise?  

Before you do the workout, make sure you understand what low impact is. Simply put it means no jumping.  It’s “less impact” on the joints. 

As I mentioned earlier, impact and intensity are two different things. Impact is about the force exerted on or by the body. When both feet leave the ground at the same time (jumping) that is high impact.  When you keep at least one foot on the ground, that is low impact.   

Is Low Impact HIIT Effective? 

The concept for HIIT is intensity involving mindset: go hard during the work, then take a rest and do it again. 

While it is true that a HIIT workout often uses lower-body plyometrics and other high-impact exercises to raise your heart rate to anaerobic places, you can still raise your heart rate and tax your muscles while doing low impact HIIT.  I always remind my clients and students that YOU bring the attitude and effort to every workout.  The key to low impact exercise is staying focused and trying hard!  In order to increase heart rate and muscle engagement during low impact HIIT, the workout should: 

  • Engaging more muscle groups at a time.
  • Encourage you to pick up speed during the low-impact exercises (but only once you’ve mastered good form and range of motion)! 
  • Add in some sort of outside resistance like dumbbells! Using moderate to heavy dumbbells will allow you to keep your feet on the ground (aka low impact) but provide an extra challenge.

What exercises should I avoid with bad knees?

Depending on why your knees hurt will make a difference.  If you had a previous injury or surgery, your doctor may provide you with dos and don’ts for range of motion.  But if your knees hurt because you are overweight and deconditioned, you then need to start slowly with exercise, keep it low impact, and ease into more range of motion over time.  Your joints and muscles need to acclimate to exercise and overdoing it at first may leave you sore and feeling defeated.  Take baby steps with increasing your activity level and stay low impact.   

Try this Low Impact HIIT workout for Bad knees

This workout was designed using moves that are protective of bad knees, some of which include holding dumbbells to give you that extra push of high intensity. And because it is low impact, you could do a workout like this daily. 

So here’s the game plan:

Perform each move as hard as you can for 30 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, and repeat. Continue this pattern for all 8 exercises, doing them each twice. (It will take you a total of 12 minutes.)

If you’re feeling up to it, you can rest for a few minutes after completing the 12-minute workout and do it all again!

12-Minute Low-Impact HIIT Workout For Bad Knees

1. Front Kicks

how to do front kicks

How to do front kicks:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms bent and held in front of you.
  2. Lift right leg up, bending knee slightly, and kick right foot forward. Keep ankle flexed and push through your heel.
  3. Place the right foot down and switch to the left.
  4. Continue to repeat kicking with intensity and speed.

Go for 30 seconds. Transition to next exercise in 15 seconds.

2. Push-Up Renegade Row

how to do push up renegade row with weights

How to do push-up renegade rows:

  1. Begin in a full plank with dumbbells in hands, arms extended, and on toes. (The kneeling variation is fine if you are not able to do a full plank). Engage your abdominals by drawing the belly inward towards your spine.
  2. Lower your body in a straight line toward the ground to a low plank without sagging your back, then push back up to plank.
  3. Pull right dumbbell up toward right hip bone, keeping weight close to your side. Slowly return it to the floor. Repeat the push-up and pull the left dumbbell to the left hip bone. Continue the push-up row alternating sides.

Go for 30 seconds. Transition to next exercise in 15 seconds.

3. Lateral Shuffle

how to do lateral shuffle

How to do a lateral shuffle:

  1. Start standing with feet hip distance apart, slightly bend knees and sink your weight back into your heels so you don’t feel it in your knees. Bring both hands in front of the chest in guard position.
  2. Start with right foot moving right and left foot following. Shuffle right for four right-left steps, then move left for four left-right steps. Continue shuffling right/left for the desired amount of time.

Go for 30 seconds. Transition to next exercise in 15 seconds.

Related: 10 Lower-Body Exercises To Combat Knee Pain

4. Sit-Up Press

how to do sit up press

How to do a sit-up press:

  1. Start on back with bent knees and feet on the mat. Elbows are bent and dumbbells are resting above the chest.
  2. Bring the head, neck, and shoulders off the mat sitting up, and extend the arms out long pressing the dumbbell forward. Return back to the mat with control.

Go for 30 seconds. Transition to next exercise in 15 seconds.

5. Punching

how to do punching exercises

How to do punching:

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart and bend knees slightly. Tighten the core to keep your center still.
  2. Punch out one arm at a time at a steady, intense pace.

Go for 30 seconds. Transition to next exercise in 15 seconds.

6. Squat and Curl with Alternating Knee Lifts 

demonstration of Squat curl with a kick for bad knees

How to do squat and curl with alternating knee lifts:

  1. Start in squat position, weight back on heels and arms long next to side holding dumbbells.
  2. Squeeze your glutes to press up and lift right knee as you curl the weights to your shoulders.
  3. Slowly lower the weights back down and return to squat position.  Repeat with left knee.

Targets: biceps, glutes, quads

7. Army Crawl

how to do army crawls

How to do an army crawl:

  1. Begin in a plank position with your shoulders over your wrists, your feet together, and your body in a straight line.
  2. Bend your left arm so that it is now in forearm plank position.
  3. Then bend your right arm so you are in a full forearm plank position.
  4. Lift your left hand and place it on the mat directly below your shoulder as you push through your palm to lift yourself.
  5. As you reach the top, place your right palm on the floor under your right shoulder and push back into a full plank. Repeat, leading with the right arm.

Go “forearm forearm hand hand” for 30 seconds, moving at an intense pace. Transition to next exercise in 15 seconds.

8. Knee Thrust

knee thrust exercise for bad knees

How to do knee thrusts:

  1. Start standing with feet wider than shoulder distance apart and turn both feet in one direction allowing the hips to follow like you’re in a shallow lunge. The front knee is a 90-degree angle and the back heel lifted. Arms are in guard position in front of the chest.
  2. Drive the back knee up to hip height towards the hands, and hands in towards the thigh. Return the foot to floor and repeat.

Go for 30 seconds.

Rest for 1 minute and, if you want another kick, go back to the top and start again.

If you like this workout, Put a Pin On It! Save this pin for later to remember some of the best HIIT moves for bad knees. #PinForLater

Infographic showing low impact HIIT for bad knees workout exercises

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Workout Mistakes That Can Leave You In Pain


Printed from GetHealthyU.com

8 Comments


on September 10, 2020 at 3:47 PM Reply

This is perfect for what I was looking for. I’ve been doing cardio kickboxing and high intensity dance but my knees began to ache and hurt the past month. This is a nice adaptation for what I currently do, with less twisting in the knee. Thank you!


on April 6, 2018 at 5:31 PM Reply

Give me a break, if one can't do the kind of exercises that hurts one's knees, it's HIGHLY unlikely one can do three different exercises that are essentially full push-ups! Even at my fittest I could barely do more than a couple of regular push-ups. This list needs to be re-thought.


    on April 10, 2018 at 8:13 AM Reply

    Hi Leigh, sorry this article didn't meet your expectations. A lot of our audience has found success with this workout, but of course everyone is different. We always encourage modifications and listening to your own body so if this doesn't feel right to you, then of course you can skip or change it. We have lots of other low impact exercises and workouts you can check out if you're still looking for another option. Thanks!


on August 8, 2017 at 3:40 AM Reply

I am excited to try these...I had my right knee replaced about 8 months ago and these exercises are totally doable. Thank you!


on August 31, 2016 at 9:24 PM Reply

What about those of us that can't do these exercises? Most folks that I know that have bad knees are older and these exercises are way out of our range.


    on September 6, 2016 at 9:12 AM Reply

    You might want to try this one, Lori: https://gethealthyu.com/10-lower-body-exercises-to-combat-knee-pain/


on April 13, 2016 at 2:54 AM Reply

I am nearly 54 years old with a right knee which is giving me trouble. I am nearly 50 pounds over weight, have asthma and need help.


    on April 18, 2016 at 4:13 PM Reply

    Hi Sheryll - I hear you, joints do get old with age. But losing those extra 50 pounds will help reduce issues with your knee. Depending on the degree of your asthma, talk to your doctor about how hard you can exercise but the bottom line is to get started. Check out www.gethealthyutv.com - we have lots of great beginner workout to get you started on your journey to weight loss. Check out the Move to Loose and Walk & Tone programs. For less then $5 a month, we could be workout buddies!



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