10 Low-Impact Leg Exercises That Bring The Burn

Keep things easy on the joints.



Low-impact leg exercises are all about keeping your feet on the ground. That doesn’t, however, mean you won’t get a good workout. Trainer Jen Hains O’Neill says these moves will still work your muscles — just without all the extra wear and tear on your joints.


Standing Knee Hugs

O’Neill says this move works your legs, glutes, and adductors. It’s also a great hip stretch.

- Stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart.

- Lift right leg up to chest.

- Hold and hug your knee in for a few seconds.

- Alternate legs.

- Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds.


Wall Sits

O’Neill also likes walls sits to target the quads and calves.

- Lean back against a wall.

- Slide down.

- Bend knees 90 degrees.

- Keep arms at sides or out in front of you.

- Remember to breathe in and out.

- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.



O’Neill says the up-down motion is great for overall lower-body conditioning.

- Stand behind bench or step.

- Step firmly onto bench.

- Keep back straight, lift up.

- Step other foot up.

- Step back down with same foot.

- Alternate feet for 10 to 12 reps per side.


Chair Pulse

Trainer Whitney Berger is a big fan of this move.

- From standing, sit your hips back into a yoga chair pose.

- Keep feet together, arms overhead, knees behind toes.

- Begin to pulse up and down one inch for 30 to 60 seconds.

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Glute Bridge

Trainer TJ Mentus suggests this move for your posterior chain.

- Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat.

- Engage core.

- Press into heels, squeeze glutes to raise hips.

- Lower hips back down.

- Do 3 sets of 15.

- Add a weight to your lap for a challenge.


Standing Leg Extensions

Pilates pro Jane Olson says these work the glutes and hamstrings.

- Start with resistance band around ankles, hands on wall for support.

- Lift right leg back.

- Keep hips square.

- Hold for 3 breaths.

- Release.

- Lift and repeat 8 to 10 times per leg.


Curtsy Lunges

Olson points to this move for the quads.

- Hook resistance band to something stable.

- Hook other end around one ankle.

- Step banded leg to side for lateral lunge.

- Keep hips square.

- Sweep other leg behind you into curtsy lunge.

- Do 8 to 10 reps per leg.


Kneeling Kick

Pilates pro Robin Long recommends side kneeling kicks.

- Kneel and lean to one side.

- Use a straight arm to support upper body.

- Raise opposite leg out to side.

- Keep body/head in straight line.

- Raise top leg.

- Kick it forward and back.

- Do 10 reps per side.


Side Leg Lifts

Pilates instructor Lesley Logan says these work your thighs, hamstrings, and quads.

- Lie on side, legs straight, shoulders and hips aligned.

- Prop head on hand.

- Flex bottom foot, point top foot and raise to hip height.

- Lower back down.

- Do 5 to 10x per leg.


Leg Circles

Logan recommends adding leg circles to the lifts.

- Lie on side, legs straight, shoulders and hips aligned, head on hand.

- Flex bottom foot, point top foot and raise to hip height.

- Reach top leg back.

- Draw little circles in both directions.

- Do 5 to 10x per leg.

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