If you deal with knee pain or discomfort, you might be a little hesitant to jump into HIIT — and rightly so. The high-intensity, high-impact exercise method has the potential to stress out sensitive joints.
But, depending on your knee issue, you might not have to totally ditch the calorie-burning workout. We reached out to a personal trainer for tips on making HIIT easier on the knees — from simple modifications to the importance of warming up.
Don't Skip the Warmup or the Cooldown
As tempting as it might be to press snooze one more time and skip a warmup, push yourself to roll out of bed.
"It's extremely important for those with knee pain to warm up and cool down properly," Kevin Piccirillo, a NASM-certified personal trainer at Crunch Fitness, confirms.
To warm up, Piccirillo suggests dynamic stretching, or using active movements to allow the joints and muscles to go through a full range of motion. "These can include tube walking (putting a resistance band around the ankles while walking side to side), or a five- to 10-minute light exercise on a cardio machine."
At the end of your class, you might feel the urge to close out of your workout app quickly. But again, you'll want to hold still through that cooldown.
"Gentle stretching of the lower body is a good way to cool down after HITT training for those with knee issues," Piccirillo notes.
So high-knee runs hurt your knees? Definitely don't push through the pain. Instead, modify the move to make it appropriate for your body.
Piccirillo says one simple way to modify HIIT workouts is to switch from lower-body moves — like jumping — to an upper-body HIIT move. Battle ropes, overhead medicine ball slams, or the rowing machine are all examples.
You can also modify or switch up specific moves to make the impact less detrimental to your knees.
"Another example of modifying a common HIIT exercise is switching from jumping jacks or jumping rope to mountain climbers or even the sled push," Piccirillo notes. "Both knee-friendly exercises [are] ensured to get that heart rate elevated."
Instead of squat jumps, Piccirillo suggests trying kettlebell swings, "which work the hips, glutes, and hamstrings just as well as squats do, while elevating the heart rate at the same time."
Switch out box jumps with step-ups: Piccirillo says to step up onto the box and push your body up with one leg until it's straight, and then lower your body back to the starting position under control. You should perform equal reps on both legs.
Work With a Certified Personal Trainer
To prevent injury and to determine what movements are irritating your knees, Piccirillo suggests working with a certified personal trainer.
"A trainer will assess an individual's injuries and devise an adaptive plan that can modify their workouts, ensuring a safe and effective exercise routine."